Water (catching it, saving it, treating it, using less of it, reusing it)

DIY projects you can build to harvest rainwater, reduce water use, and reuse water.


I suppose that the only thing we waste more of than energy is water, and the consequences are probably just as bad -- maybe worse.  Here are some practical ways to get started changing that.



Water related material on other pages:

Solar water pumping
Solar water heating


Report Broken Links ...

Rain Water Harvest System References  -- catching rainwater for people, plants, and livestock
The Texas Manual On Rainwater Harvesting Manual,
Texas Water Development Board



Very good how-to on designing and building a rainwater catchment system. 
Intended for Texas residents, but much of the material is widely applicable.
Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged,
Suzy Banks with Richard Heinichen



Really good how-to book on rainwater collection systems.

Nice, down-to-earth style.   The authors have installed many systems, and appear to know the subject well.
About the only down side is that the book only covers southern climates, and may need a bit of adjusting for other places.

Rain Harvest Calculator


A very nice Rain Harvest Calculator.
Lots of flexibility.
Good charts to show the results.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Montana,
MSU Extension Service


A fairly basic guide on rainwater harvesting systems for Montana.  Most of the material is applicable to other areas.
Harvesting Rainwater for Landscape Use,
Ratricia Waterfall, Extension Agent,
University of Arizona
2nd edition, October, 2004





Good guide on collection of rainwater for landscape watering purposes.

The 60 page guide includes both simple systems that redirect rainwater for landscape watering, as well as complex systems that include storage.


Design for Water,
Heather Kinkade-Levario


A good and up-to-date book on rain water harvesting, stormwater catchment, and water reuse.

Covers passive systems that catch and control storm water as well as active systems that store rain water for later use for drinking or landscape irrigation. 

Sufficient detail to support designing and building your own system.
Last half of book is "case studies", but nearly all are large commercial  systems.  235 pages, 2007.

Water From the Sky,
Micheal Reynolds

Earthship Store:

Amazon.com has a better price


This very good book covers all aspects of the impressive Earthship water system, including roof water catchment, cisterns, water distribution, grey water and black water treatment, and grey water reuse. 
Earthships are typically have complete water independence -- they capture all of their water needs on the roof, and they don't export sewage -- all in a climate with 8 inches of annual rainfall.  The book covers thirty years worth of lessons learned in designing these systems.
Water Storage,
Art Ludwig
A good, hands-on book about building and installing and using water tanks -- including large ones.
Lots of practical detail, lessons learned, ...

Good section on building ferrocement tanks.

125 large format pages, 2005.  Available at Amazon and the usual places.

Rainwater Harvesting,
Practical Action



A practical guide on building fairly simple rainwater collection systems.  Also provides information on sizing collection and storage areas.

NOAA CLIM20 Report:
NOAA CLIM20 Weather Summaries by City

All NOAA Weather Products

The NOAA CLIM20 report is available as a free download, and has historic precipatation data that may be useful for planning a rain collection system (for example, probability that rainfall will be less than a given level)
Rain Water Harvest Systems to Build
Our new 2500 gallon rain water harvesting system

All the details...
our rain water collection systemThis is our new 2500 gallon rain water harvesting system to provide water for the garden.  The system caprain water harvest outlettures water off the 925 sqft shop roof and collects it into the 2500 gallon poly tank.  
A small pump makes the water available for the garden.
The write-up is quite detailed with sections on sizing, construction, and performance.
All the details...
Designing And Installing A Rain Water Catchment System,
Alt. Build Blog

A pretty detailed description of a 1600 gallon rain water harvest system in New Mexico. 

Quite a bit of detail on the collection, overflow, and outlet plumbing.
Ersson Rainwater Harvest and Purification




.Fairly detailed description  a system for collecting and treating rainwater.

Covers building and operating the system.
A Nice, Simple Rainwater Storage Setup




John's system uses a nice direct connection of the roof gutter system to an water storage tank under the deck.



Rainwater Harvesting with Multiple Barrels




A well thought out scheme for adding together any number of barrels for rain water catchment.

Complete with good plumbing diagrams, and even a water level gage.
(if supporting the barrels as shown is a problem, it would probably be possible to make the plumbing connection to each barrel down low on the side)

The WooTank -- Version 2

A nice tank you can build for fish or rainwater...

This is a nice design for tank from Nathan. 
The tank consists of an external frame made from 2 by lumber, and plywood sides lined with EPDM.  The bottom basically sits right on the ground.  Very simple and inexpensive, but likely to be durable.  I think the external frame could be stained and look very nice in a home landscape or garden.
Nathan uses the tank as a fish tank, but it should work fine for rain harvesting.
Build A Simple Rain Barrel,
Maryland Environmental Design Program


Another rain barrel collector design, and notes on using the water:

Describes building a simple barrel for catching rainwater for landscape watering.
Make a Rain Barrel



Nice rain barrel project from the Homegrown Evolution site.

Provides for controlled overflow and gravity feed from the barrel.

Rain Barrel to Toilet Installation




Very good and detailed description of how to use water collected in a rain barrel for toilet flushing.
Rain Barrel Installation Video and Kit

Installing a rain barrel video...

rain barrel kitThis is a nice video and kit of parts for hooking up a rain barrel water collection system. 
The system includes the hookup from downspout to barrel as well as both a faucet that can be installed at fill a bucket height and a 2nd fitting to install near the bottom of the tank.  Has provisions for adding more barrels.
Rainwater Harvesting



Pretty complete story on a rainwater harvesting system in use since  1984.
Quite a bit of how to build and how to use such a system.
How to Build a Rainwater Harvesting and Greywater Collecting System

(a YouTube video)


This is an advanced rainwater and greywater collection system.  The system collects rainwater from the roof, and routes it to two 275 gallon tote type tanks in the crawl space.  Greywater from the shower is also collected and routed to the same two tanks.  A pump is used to extract water from the tanks for landscape watering.  All-in-all a very nice system.
The system is described with quite a bit of construction detail in the YouTube video.
Building a High Pressure Solar Powered Rainwater Irrigation System

rainwater irrigation systemRay describes a solar powered rain water collection system and lawn irrigation system all integrated into a nice package.
The system collects roof water into a 400 gallon tank, and then distributes the water to a sprinkler system using a solar powered high pressure diaphragm pump.
Suggestions for Installing Domestic Water Storage Tanks (in freezing climates),
Building In Alaska
Some guidelines on installing buried or insulated tanks for water in cold climates.
Ferro Cement Tanks



Quite a detailed free online book on how to construct a ferro cement water tank.
Build a 6500 gallon Concrete Water Tank for $1500,
Dorothy Ainsworth,
Backwoods Home Magazine




Pretty detailed article from Backwoods Home Magazine on building a large concrete water tank to store water for home and irrigation.

Lots of work, but it has held up for 23 years and counting.

Could probably also be used as a heat storage tank in solar heating systems.

Portable Water Catchment and Shelter for Livestock

Full build-it details ...

Ray's combination water catchment and shelter for livestock.  The system collects and filters water from the roof of the shelter, stores it in plastic water barrels, and makes the water available with a float controlled water basin.
Made entirely with common, hardware store materials.

Full details ...

Collecting Water for Wildlife

This site appears to have gone away, but the material is still available on the Wayback Machine:



Plans and information that would be helpful in building a wildlife "watering hole" with rain collection.
Barrels and Totes for Water Collection (and other uses)...

barrels for water collectionThis page has dozens of projects that can be done with plastic or metal 55 gallon drums and 275 gallon plastic totes.

Several interesting water harvesting schemes and lots of other ideas -- composting barrels, feeders, planters, floats, chairs, doghouses, chicken houses,...

The WaterWall Fatboy Tank




If you don't want the rain barrel look, this may be the tank for you.

The tank holds 650 gallons, and has an unusual sculpted look.  Several tanks can be ganged together.

Aussie Rain Tanks




A site with some unique rainwater tank choices including the one pictured and a unique, flat, under deck tank.



(Thanks to Nathan for suggesting this site)

Legalities of Collecting Water Off Your Roof
(or, do you own the water that lands on your roof)



This NYT article gives the latest on the laws in some states that would prevent you from harvesting water that lands on your roof.
Looks like common sense is prevailing.
(thanks to Doug for finding this)
Fog Harvesting
Harvesting water from fog

OAS article on Fog Harvesting...

Article from Inhabitat...

Areas that have frequent fogs (eg some coastal areas) can harvest water fairly efficiently and inexpensively from from the fog using nets.

AquaVolve -- water from humidity in air...


AquaVolve water from airAn interesting product that uses a wind turbine to run cooling equipment that condenses water from the humidity in air.
Conserving Water
My Shower Curtain is a Green Warrior



This  is one way to stop your teenagers from taking those hour long showers :)
Use some of the items listed on this site:

Efficient Toilets...
Grey water recycling...

Greywater Reuse
Reusing grey water for yard watering or toilet flushing reduces water demand, and reduces the volume of sewage to be treated by municipal treatment plants.
Oasis Design -- Grey Water Central




A good site on grey water reuse basics. 
The system described are simple and have been field proven.
GreyWater dot Com


Grey Water Action -- several good projects with details

Two more sources of practical greywater reuse information and gey water projects
Occidental Greywater,



This article covers building a system to divert and treat grey water for reuse in landscape irrigation.
Greywater Ecuador La Largrima Purifificadora,




Construction of a grey water purification bed.

Quite a bit of detail on laying out and building the bed, liner, grease trap, ...

Grey Water Marsh,
Campus Center for Appropriate Technology,
Humboldt State University



Fairly detailed article on how to design, build, and use a grey water treatment marsh.
Domestic Wastewater,
David Abazs

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Magazine article, issue 89.  David describes installing a grey water irrigation system on their off-grid home.
Also provides some information on composting toilets. 
Sample soil beds for greywater irrigation and infiltration



Some pictures of grey water systems using plant beds.
EPA Constructed Wetland Website

EPA reference site on constructing wetlands
www.epa.gov ...

Handbook of Constructed Wetlands - Volume 1 ... (pdf)

Handbook of Constructed Wetlands - Volume 2 ... (pdf)

EPA website with much material on designing and building wetlands for water treatment.

Including a 53 page EPA handbook on constructing wetlands for treating water.


Laundry to Landscape Grey Water  System,
Oasis Design



Nice and detailed set of free plans from Oasis Design on building a laundry water to yard system.
Laundry to Landscape 2.0



This is an example of the system just above at the Homegrown Evolution blog -- good pictures.
Greywater System for Clothes Washer Water



Details on a simple system to reuse the laundry water for plant watering.
Grey water for greenhouse heating and plant watering




See also greenhouses and sunspaces section ...






Using grey water for greenhouse plant watering and as a source of heat for the greenhouse seems like a potentially good way to go.
I've included the (meager) information I have been able to find on this below.  If you have other information, pictures, ... please let me know -- Gary.

And, www.greywater.com/samples.htm

Greywater treatment with some discussion of GH use



A GH that use greywater
An overview of a greenhouse that uses greywater for watering and heating.

Hydroponic Bog Garden

http://www.instructables.com/ ...


Details on constructing a bog garden to treat waste water and grow water loving plants.

Flotender Commercial Grey Water Irrigation System...



flotender grey water for drip irrigationA commercial grey water reuse for drip irriagation from Flotender. The system claims to filter the water well enough to allow use in drip irrigation without plugging of drip orifices.

The website provides helpful material on grey water reuse and a full installation manual.

A small commercial solution



This is a compact commercial grey water recycling package.  It could be used as a model for building a similar system.

If anyone has actual experience with this unit (or similar ones), I'd be very interested in hearing about it.

Rain Water Gardens
Rain Gardens of West Michigan


Rain water gardens capture and use storm water that would normally run off your property and cause problems for the storm sewer system.

They are a fairly easy project, look great, and avoid the rapid runoff during storms that carries pollution into streams and rivers.

This site has lots of detailed information on planning and building a rain water garden.
Water  Purification For Drinking
Water Pasteurization Indicator

Indicates when water has reached a high enough temperature to kill harmful microbes.



"The reusable WAPI (Water Pasteurization Indicator) is a simple, low cost device containing a special soy wax that helps users determine when water has reached pasteurization temperatures. The wax melts at the same temperature as the water is pasteurized."

Thanks to Paul for finding this)

Solar Stills
Solar powered water distillation..

Horace McCracken and Joel Gordes

VITA Paper


Understanding Solar Stills -- A VITA paperVery complete VITA paper describing a wide variety of solar stills for making potable water.  A good deal of design and construction information.
Solar Still

ElPaso Solar Energy Association

solar still plans ...

Solar Still from ElPaso Solar Energy AssociationPlans for a solar still used to purify water.  Report on daily output.
Watercone Solar Still



Watercone solar still -- purify waterA slick new design for solar still.

"This Invention represents a conical, self-supporting and stackable Unit made from transparent, thermo-formable polycarbonate (same as water dispensers) outfitted with a screw cap spout at the tip and an inward circular collecting trough at the base. Technically speaking it is a solar still. "

Random Water Ideas
Hippo Roller water transport 
From Inhabitat.com

http://www.inhabitat.com/ ...


An easy way to transport several days worth of water for a family.

The best designs are the simple ones.

Advanced Toilets -- of many kinds -- $10 and up
High Efficiency Toilets (HET's)
These toilets utilize various techniques to reduce the amount of water per flush to no more than 1.28 gallons -- sometimes as little as 1 gallon.   In order to receive the HET designation, the toilets must pass the same performance test that conventional toilets have to pass. 
Designs include Dual-Flush, Pressure Assisted Flush, and Flushometer.
Since about 30% of household water goes to toilet flushing, these lower flush toilets can result in significant water saving.
Toilet performance tests

Primer on HET's (pdf)

The MAP site under the "Professional" tab has test results for thousands of toilets

EPA on HET's

The Performance Testing link describes the MAP test, which tests toilet flushing performance.  The idea of the testing program is to ensure that past problems with low flush toilets are not repeated.

(my thanks to John Koeller for providing the HET information)

EPA WaterSense Program




This is a program that the EPA is promoting.  Toilets with this label use at least 20% less water than the current federal standard for toilets.

So, ask your supplier why he does not have a bunch of toilets with this label.

Todd's Low Flush Toilet Experiences

Details ...

Todd goes over choosing, installing and using a dual flush toilet...

Its amazing what a 0.9 gallon flush can do!


Our Dual Flush Toilet ...

Updated Nov 2010

This is our go at replacing one of our toilets with a water conserving dual-flush toilet.

All the fascinating details...


Waterless Urinals
These urinals use no flush water at all. 
No reason you can't put one in your house.
Waterless Urinals

Some Suppliers:






Waterless urinals save a great deal of water, and are becoming more popular for home use.

Waterless urinals use a sealant liquid in a trap that is lighter that water and remains in the trap to prevent odors.  More...

On a commercial scale:" A Waterless urinal saves on average 45,000 gallons of water a year . Twenty-two Waterless urinals save approximately 1,000,000 gallons of water per year. It can be estimated that there are 8 million urinals installed in the US alone with approximately 100 million people using these fixtures. Assuming an average 2 gallon flush, the potable water use of urinals in this country per year is approximately 160 billion gallons."

Urine Separation Toilets
These toilets separate out the urine and collect it in a separate container for use as a high value fertilizer.
Separation greatly simplifies sewage treatment, and saves much water.
Urine Separation Toilets




Some Suppliers:


These toilets separate out the urine and collect it in a separate container.  Urine is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, and makes a good fertilizer.

Separation greatly simplifies sewage treatment, and saves much water.
Composting Toilets
Composting toilets turn waste into useful compost, and do not require the huge quantities of water, or generate the huge quantities of sewage that conventional toilets do.
Waterless Toilets -- A good AU Guide




A good overview write up on two types of composting toilets.

Covers continuous composting and batch composting toilets including some pros and cons of each.
The Composting Toilet System Book.
David Del Porto and Carol Steinfeld

Widely available

Very good book on composting toilets.  History, types of, how they work, how to take care of them, owners stories. 
And, enough detail to build some of the designs.

Also, a good chapter on greywater treatment and recycling.

Clivusmultrum Composting Toilets


Clivus Residential Planning Manual (pdf)

Phoenix (a Clivus competitor)

With this toilet, the composting container goes in the basement and can serve more than one toilet. 
This is a well established design that has been in use for several decades.

The book "The New Autonomous House", Vale gives an extensive description of installing and living with this toilet -- nearly all favorable.

Composting Toilets

A list of composting toilet manufacturers:


And, another:

There are a several commercial makers of composting toilets that sit on the bathroom floor.
These toilets turn the waste into compost, and generally do not need water.
The various designs have their strong and weak points -- some research is in order.
I have to be honest here -- The reports I have read on these toilets are very mixed.  A number of people in continuous use situations report having trouble making these composting toilets work  -- so do your homework carefully.

Here is a discussion thread from Homesteading Today that is typical the kind of experience people report for commercial composting toilets...

The Humanure Handbook 3rd Edition,
Joseph Jenkins

Free download from the authors website


Gallery of Humanure Toilets



Everything you ever wanted to know about shit, and then some -- complete with cartoons.  This is a serious and well respected book with much good information, but presented with some humor.  And, its free!

"This is the third edition of a self-published book. No respectable publisher would touch it with a ten foot shovel. Nevertheless, the book has now been sold in at least 57 countries worldwide and has been published in foreign editions on four continents. It has been talked about on NPR, BBC, CBC, Howard Stern, in The Wall Street Journal, Playboy Magazine ... "
How to Make and Use a Simple "Sawdust" Toilet



Detailed instructions on how to make a sawdust toilet -- as described in the Humanure Book above.

Before you dismiss this as being to primitive, have a look at this Homesteading Today thread...
They may be low tech, but people who have used them seem to think highly of them.

A Sustainable Solar Heated Loo

a solar heated looThis is Michael's very nice solar heated loo. It uses the Arbor Loo design, but adds a simple solar space heating system to help out on those solar heated loo diagramcold mornings.

The Arbor design saves thousands of gallons of water a year, and provides valuable compost.

The solar heating system is simple and compact drainback using an IBC container for the heat storage and heat distribution.
All the details...

Composting Toilet




Plans for a composting toilet.
Composting Toilets from  Living Outside the Box

Composting Toilets:

Other Biological Toilets:


Some experiences on designing, building, and living with several composting toilet designs over a long period of time. 
Very interesting and well thought out.
Compost Toilets,
From Practical Action.org


http://www.appropedia.org/ ...




Building a two chamber composting toilet.  Covers pro/con, and some building and operation information.
Making a Composting Toilet  -- A Homemade Clivus Multrum

http://www.dykema.net/Heidisloo.htm (this link is currently broken)

Some of it is on the Wayback Machine (limited pictures):


A $250 version of the $5000 Clivus Multrum!
The Sunny John




A "moldering" toilet design that seems to eliminate a lot of the problems of the traditional outhouse and the composting toilet.  No stink!
Composting Toilet for RV's
Composting toilets for RV's can be a great way to get rid of the black water tank, chemicals, and messy dumping that go with conventional RV toilets.
DIY Composting Toilet for RV...

DIY RV composting toiletThis is Gordon's homemade composting toilet for his RV. It is simple to build and only costs a few dollars.

Gordon passes on detailed instructions on how to build and use the composting toilet, and observations from their many years of using this and other composting toilets.


Full Time RVers Report on Composting Toilet...

Using a composting toilet in RV full timeThe Wynn's are full time RVers who converted from the usual black water tank based RV toilet to a compact Nature's Head commercial composting toilet.

The have a half dozen very well done videos explaining installation, using the toilet, prepping the the toilet for use and a very detailed FAQ video.

Well worth watching if you are thinking of changing to a composting toilet.

Natures Head Composting Toilet for Tiny Homes...

Using Composting Toilet for tiny homeVery good video on using a commercial Nature's Head compact composting toilet with urine separation.

Lots of good detail on living successfully with a composting toilet. Even includes a blind smell test!


Efficient Irrigation
Guide to Successful Drip Irrigation For Landscape Professionals,
From City Of Santa Monica

Drip Irrigation Guide (pdf)

A complete guide on installing a water efficient drip irrigation system.
Harvesting Rainwater for Landscape Use



Designing and building simple systems to us water captured from roofs to provide landscape water.
Trickle Irrigation,
University of Alaska Extension Service

www.uaf.edu/coop-ext/publications (pdf)


"Trickle or drip irrigation is a method of slowly applying small amounts of water to the root zone of
Paper describing the benefits of, and how how to implement an efficient trickle irrigation system.
Dripworks Catalog



This is a commercial supplier of drip irrigation equipment.  Their catalog is extensive and a helpful reference.
Natural Swimming Pools
Taking the Plunge Naturally,
Permaculture Magazine



These beautiful swimming pools clean themselves naturally (no chemicals). 

Less impact, less energy, nicer looking, less expensive to build and maintain.

How to Build a Natural Swimming Pool,
Douglas Buege, Vicky Uhland,
Mother Earth News, August 2002

Finding Mother Earth News articles...
natural poolA good article from Mother Earth News going over ideas and construction details for a natural pool.
23 Breathtaking Natural Swimming Pools,
The Daily Green

natural swimming poolA nice slide show of  23 pictures of very nicely done  natural swimming pools from theDailyGreen.


Gary 02/10/07