Collect Rainwater with a DIY 275-Gallon Rain Cube

Energy & Sustainability Gardening Home Science
Collect Rainwater with a DIY 275-Gallon Rain Cube

Obtaining water to drink and use has been one of society’s greatest challenges throughout the ages. Ironically, water literally falls out of the sky in the form of rain. If you can find a way to collect it, this can help solve one of your most essential needs. Ben Nelson, who lives in southeastern Wisconsin, decided to set up a rain collection system on his parents’ property with the help of his father.

Ben works professionally in video production, and has an associate degree in Multimedia design. This comes through in his well-made videos (see the first in this series below). As for how he learned to collect water and other cool “hacks,” he says that, “I didn’t go to school to become an engineer or environmentalist. I do have a library card, internet access and a socket set. You would be amazed what you can do with those things.” He also adds that “There’s a lot of places to learn other than schools. Lots of times, that’s my driveway or back yard.”

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Nelson’s build, as seen in this Instructables article, started out by obtaining a 275 gallon container, known as an “IBC” (intermediate bulk container) from a local bottler. These are reportedly available for under $100 online, but he was able to obtain his IBC for free. The great thing about using this type of container is that they are able to hold five times the typical 55-gallon rain barrel’s capacity.

Nelson installed this “rain cube” next to his father’s barn/office to collect water coming off of its roof. As it was the highest point on the property, the container wasn’t put on an elevated stand. They simply leveled an area for the tank near the gutter’s downspout, then constructed a pallet to set it on.

The IBC was modified to let water in, with a grate on top, and a screen to filter out smaller debris and bugs. The outlet was then modified by tapping it with ¾” NPT threads, and a brass faucet was screwed in. After sealing it and using a washer, the water storage container was ready to test.

As seen in the video below just before the 2:00 mark, it produces a very usable amount of water flow.

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The gutters were then modified to allow water to flow to the tank. This was, apparently, “the tough part,” and included a method for using the opposite side of the roof as well. The design ended up with a short piece of gutter to combine the two downspouts and send water into the container.

Of course, if 275 gallons is good, then 825 gallons is even better. As seen in the video below, Nelson eventually tripled the capacity of the storage system.

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Besides the expanded storage, the tanks were also elevated, which should provide for better water pressure, especially on higher areas of the property. Tanks were connected using a manifold made out of 2″ PVC pipe, and a sight gauge is used to show how much water the tanks contain.

The tanks are protected on top with a deck, and are enclosed with paneling to match the rest of the barn, giving the system a very finished look. You can see even more information on this project on Nelson’s site, EcoProjecteer, or browse around for other interesting projects.

As for the results, Nelson says that, “I’m really pleased with how this project turned out. I think it really says something about teamwork. I read a LOT, am always coming up with plans and ideas, and always make sketches. I’m always thinking about ways to re-use, make-do, and improve things. My Dad’s really practical and has years of experience and skills to build things well, and have them look great when they are done. Working together, we got a VERY functional project.”

It’s always fun when you find someone who has skills that compliment yours. It seems this can take your projects from “good” to “fantastic.” If that person just happens to be your father, that’s even better!

Nelson adds that with all of the information readily available to us, “almost anyone can find out how to do anything… There’s no reason why we can’t all make AWESOME happen every day.”

Photo Credit: Ben Nelson,

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Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

View more articles by Jeremy S Cook


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