Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | April 22, 2014

Rainwater Totes Connected

We were able to get our 275-gallon, food grade, IBC water totes connected to the pole barn roof this week. These two large totes will capture the rain water that might otherwise run off the pole barn roof and into the ground and hold it for use later on in the gardening season. This is an affordable way of collecting and conserving the precious rain water we get here in SW Michigan.

Water collection side use jpeg

The totes are connected to the roof by using a 20 ft. length of eve’s trough, some PVC pipe, a few connectors, a couple of valves and some repurposed wood we picked up for free for a base.

We get a fair amount of seasonal rains here in SW Michigan with long periods of drought in between and I have long wished for a way to capture this precious water.

Brown downspout and brown tub

The average annual rainfall in Michigan is typically 33.15 inches which mostly arrive in the spring and in the fall. We, however, live in a pocket that is inland about 17 miles from Lake Michigan and all too often the rain goes up an over us. This means while our neighboring communities get the rainfall, we often do not.

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting droughty weather patterns in the Midwest this summer and I am happy to be proactive and have some water set aside in the case this does happen. No matter what Mother Nature gives us, this collected water will be used on thirsty vegetables, flowers, shrubs and the like.

While I’ve dreamed about an in the ground cistern and several of the large tubular metal collection system I see in books, $500.00 per unit is beyond our means.

So when I saw these heavy-duty totes advertised for $60.00 each, I knew this might be the way for us to get our rain barrels. Add a 20 ft. length of eve’s trough, some PVC pipe, a few connectors, a couple of valves and some repurposed wood we picked up for free for a base and we have a system that will work for us.

If you are in the market, be sure that you purchase “food grade” totes only for watering for your garden. I am told that some are sold have had fertilizer and other non-food materials in them. Ours have a label on the front that says, “Food Grade Molasses” and “Food Grade Honey.”

Small House / Big Sky Donna


  1. Wow that looks nice! We have been looking for two of them for a reasonable price. The small ones start att 150 dollars. I would say that you found a bargain. We are using barrels for now. i will keep bargain shopping until I find some reasonable priced. We are having record warm weather for Easter 22 C in Sweden is a rare sight. It has us also worried that rain might be scarce again this summer. Happy Gardening.

    • Good luck in your search. We bought ours from a man who buys them by the truck load (thus the lower price) and then resells them. Be sure to ask for “food grade.”

  2. These are fabulous, Donna! I’ve wanted to start rainwater harvesting here in Texas, but need to keep saving $$ for gutters. Just a quick note: You might need to spray paint your barrels a dark color. Light shines through white plastic and will cause the water inside to stink and become cloudy. Something we were told in our rainwater harvesting class. Good luck!

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