Water Harvesting

Precious water is here today and gone tomorrow. As a homesteader I see a fault in my homestead. I need a large source of dependable water for a backup. I have my deep well that can go dry or will start pumping up clay after 300-400 gallons of water in one use. That is fine for daily use, but I don’t feel secure with it. We don’t use our well for drinking because our water is full of minerals. This is my first source of water.

My second source of water is filtered water that we purchase. We save water bottle and refill them at a filling station that uses many filters and even reverse osmosis to clean it. It tastes good, and I trust that they do filter the water as they say they do. I have seen the guy that tests the water on a weekly basis, and it looks like a thorough test he does right at the station. I also change the bottles I use on a monthly basis with distilled water bottles I buy.

I keep a pond with 330 gallons of water or so that is topped off with rainwater from another 55-gallon rainwater tank. This system collects water off my garage and fills my 55-gallon water tank. The overflow goes to my small pond/aquaponics tank, and that overflows into my hoop house to water my plants.

I do use the water from my first rainwater catch to water my livestock. When we lose power, we use that for washing up also but 55 gallons or less of water is just not enough for my family of 5. We can last 2 days with 55 gallons of rain water for cleaning and flushing the toilet, but not much longer. Our drinking supply of bottled water can last us about 1 week.

I would like to do two more things for my homestead, and I have been researching this for many years.
1. Install a manual water pump either in my current well or dig another for the pump.
2. Build a rain water catch for my chicken coop
3. Have a large potable water storage of at least 3,000 gallons that will be rainwater filled

I don’t have the extra funds to spend $5,000 or more to accomplish my water goals. I have to be sustainable and work within my means. I have decided that the hand pump should be my first project.

Water Harvesting 01

I would like a stainless steel deep well hand pump. After looking at many types and reading reviews on some major brands, it looks like it will be between $1,000-$1,300 for the pump itself. I will install it myself and you can also, but you must research and take precautions like don’t drop anything down your well and make sure you shut the power off on your electric well.

Second, I would like to setup a water catchment system for my chicken coop. This is a fairly easy project that can save anyone some time for daily watering and make sure your chickens have a continuous supply of water. I like the setup pictured at the Permaculture News site.

This simple setup uses a metal roof that drains into a tank. I will use a 55-gallon food safe plastic drum and a funnel with filter (mesh cloth). The roof drains into a gutter then drains into the funnel filter and into the drum. On the side of the drum I will mount a hose connection and Little Giant Automatic Game Bird Fount Waterer. These little waterers are dependable and easy to unscrew and clean. This will be a real timesaver as long as it doesn’t freeze. Having a steady water supply for your chickens makes them grow faster and keeps the eggs coming.

Lastly, I will be working on the big project an underground cistern. Cisterns can be made from plastic, fiberglass and concrete. Prices depend on size, material and were you live. The average cost for a 1,000-gallon poly tank is about $1,200 dollars. Fiberglass tanks are about 3 times that price, and concrete cisterns cost about the same as poly tanks.

Water System with Cistern (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Water System with Cistern (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Putting the cisterns underground makes it easy to keep the algae out, is safer (wont fall over on someone), helps keep it from freezing, and is a space saver. This can be done by a homeowner with a little education. A complete DIY home system can cost under $1,500 or more than $5,000 for a 1,000-gallon system depending on if you do it yourself and the material you choose. A complete system will have a way to filter larger stuff like leaves and have a pump that will pump your water out of your cistern. Then, it should go to a water filtration system which usually costs extra.

When it comes down to it, water is the most important resource you have. Your livestock and family depend on it to stay alive. You’ll probably find that your rain water will be better than your home water.

I will also be building a proper water filtration center that can purify all my sources of water. These systems may seem confusing but are not nearly as hard as you think. Most components can be purchased at your home improvement stores at reasonable expense. Considering your health, I would not try to run a cistern without some sort of filtration. See more here.

Last thing to tackle is to test your potable water at least twice a year. Rain water quality can change and hurt or even kill you. If you live on the West coast, you might even have problems with radiation in the rain so a test might be a good option. Home tests are probably fine for most water quality tests, but you can easily send your water out for proper testing.


  1. Wow, having a well that would go dry after a few hundred gallons I’m sure is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing of course is that you have to explore alternative methods of water collection.

    1. Hello Bret,
      You got it! It is both. I found out when I tried to fill my hot tub and it cost me a new well pump because it went dry. Water is the most important part of life next to air.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Rich

  2. Only rainwater in the west could have radiation contamination? Im too old to do all this work, though sick of having to replace sand filters so often. Any idea of price range for having this done for me?

    1. Hello MJ,
      I don’t know what it would cost in your area. I would check with a well driller. They would probably have a solution for you.

      I would move if I had radiation in my rain. Come to Pennsylvania it’s beautiful.

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