This rainwater collection system in the Canadian wilderness has provided a source of clean, potable water for this family of four’s off grid cabin for almost 20 years. The family lives completely off the grid. Their home is so isolated, in fact, that getting machinery onto their property to dig a well was not an option. Fortunately, the conditions on their forested land are ideal for a water catchment system such as this to provide more than enough water for their needs.
The system is relatively simple and very low maintenance. Water is collected using a three hundred square foot piece of metal roofing, where it flows downhill into a gutter. It is passed through a layer of plastic mesh as it runs into the gutter to filter out any large debris, including the needles that drop onto the roof from surrounding trees. The water is then passed through a course filter as it leaves the gutter, filtering out even more of the larger debris.
After leaving the course filter, the water is run down a pipe and through a fine filter where it is further cleansed before it enters the 2000-gallon storage tank. As it is passed through this fine filter, it is also chlorinated with a slow-dissolving chlorine tablet.
Filtering and chlorinating the water before it reaches the tank has significantly lowered the amount of maintenance required to keep the tank clean in its 20 years of use. The tank is pigmented green, which inhibits the growth of sun-activated organisms. The inside of this tank has not been cleaned out once in all its years of water storage.
The storage tank sits on a hill at an elevation of about 100 feet above the cabin. The water leaves the tank and is gravity fed downhill to the residence via a hose buried a few inches beneath the ground.
The water is filtered once again with an activated charcoal filter underneath the cabin before it is used. The elevation of the tank creates enough pressure to easily run the water through the filtration system and through the pipes in the cabin.
Water for the kitchen sink is heated with a small, on-demand propane water heater. Because the rainwater is run through three separate filters and is chlorinated, the family has never had to boil the water they use for drinking or cooking in their cabin. It comes out of the tap looking and tasting clean and fresh.
This exact system would have some limitations in areas with very low rainfall or climates with colder winters and long periods of below-freezing temperatures. But it is a great example of a simple, low maintenance, system that has withstood the test of time (20 years!) and has provided this family with clean water completely off the grid.