Rainwater Collection System Tips for Shipping Container Homes

We have seen a trend across the country of moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle in all aspects of our daily lives. This is evident in areas where people have taken roots in creating their homes out of recycled materials such as shipping containers. You are reducing your carbon footprint by reusing an item and reducing the amount of waste that our society creates. Another way we can reduce that carbon footprint and evolve into a more sustainable lifestyle is reducing the amount of water we waste.

The amount of water we use on a daily basis can come as a shock for those who have never taken an in-depth look. While we can make efforts to try and reduce our water usage, especially in wasteful situations, we can also look to alternative sources to help aid us. One of these solutions is to collect rainwater for your shipping container homes. This is a great method to increase the sustainability of your already eco-friendly home.

The Basics: What is a Rainwater Collection System?

A rainwater collection system consists of a tank that simply collects rainwater from your roof through the use of gutters and downspouts that pour into the storage tank. During a storm event the rain that falls on your roof will then collect in the gutters and be channeled into the downspouts. The downspouts are connected to the storage tank either above ground or underground and the water then fills up the tank. The storage tank holds the water until you are ready to use it to supply your home or outdoor activities. Other terms for rainwater collection are rainwater harvesting or rainwater catchment. The basic idea is the same no matter what you may call it – rainwater is collected and stored for other uses.

Rainwater collection is a great alternative to using city water to complete daily tasks that can be sourced with the free water your collect in your sustainable system. Think about it, you can use free water that falls on your roof to source things like your household plumbing or watering your garden when it hasn’t rained in a while. Depending on your specific needs, you can completely source your house with water you collect for free.

Benefits of Collecting Rainwater

  1. Cost effective way to provide clean water to your shipping container home.
  2. It is eco-friendly and promotes sustainability.
  3. Collecting rainwater helps conserve water.
  4. Ideal for landscape plants and gardens because rainwater is free of chlorination.
  5. Collecting rainwater reduces stormwater runoff which helps reduce our carbon footprint.
  6. The system is extremely easy to maintain.
  7. It is versatile and can be retrofitted to any existing structure or completely custom built.
  8. Rainwater is an excellent backup source during the event of an emergency.

Uses for Collected Rainwater

One of the many benefits of collecting rainwater is that there are an abundance of potential uses. Rainwater works just like the tap so you can use it the exact same way. Some of these potential uses are as a drinking source, plumbing, or landscaping source. No matter how you choose to use your collected rainwater you are contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle and making our environment a greener space. With an increase in water shortages around the country, collecting rainwater is a vital resource we should be taking advantage of. It is an amazing technique people all over can utilize. The three main sections of rainwater use are for irrigation, non-potable use, and potable use. Here we have a breakdown on some potential uses within each category.


  • Watering your garden
  • Watering potted plants
  • Connecting to a sprinkler system


  • Source your plumbing fixtures such as showers or toilets
  • Wash your clothes in an eco-friendly washer
  • Wash your car and driveway
  • Fill up the swimming pool
  • Wash your pets


  • Provide a clean drinking water source
  • Use in the kitchen to cook and prepare foods

Limitations of Rainwater Collection

Just like other important resources in our lives, there are regulations and limitations on the amount of rainfall you can collect by the government. The formula for rainwater collection is as follows: 1” of rain x 1 sq. ft. = 0.623 gallons. The amount of rainfall you can collect is based on the annual average participation for your area. Simply take your square footage of your roof and the annual average participation for your area to determine how much rainfall you can collect.

Rainwater Collection Methods

As you may have been able to figure out, rainwater collection systems are easy to use and maintain. There are also many different types of collection methods that you can choose from. Each follow the same principles but utilize a different collection type. You can decide which collection method you prefer by analyzing the pros and cons of each.

Rain Barrel

The most simple and recognizable method of rainwater collection is through the use of a rain barrel. You simply take a barrel, install it at the downspout attached to your gutter system and collect rainwater. You can use a recycled barrel or purchase a commercial rain barrel at a nearby hardware store.

Pros of Rain Barrel Collection

  • Easy to install
  • Simple method
  • Readily available barrels that are also cost effective
  • Doesn’t take up as much space as other methods

Cons of Rain Barrel Collection

  • Smaller capacity – typically only 50 to 100 gallons
  • Can easily overflow

Dry Systems

A variation of the rain barrel method is the dry system. A dry system has a simple set up that consists of a structure and attached downspouts. The collection tank is found directly next to the catchment area and the connected pipes are all above ground. The dry system is typically seen as less aesthetically pleasing than rain barrels and wet systems but you are able to collect more water with this type of system.  The reason the system is called a dry system is because the collection pipe dries after each rain event because the pipe connects directly to the top of the tank.

Pros of Dry Systems Collection

  • Ability to store a large amount of rainwater
  • Ideal of climates that experience larger storm events, but overall rainfall is less frequent
  • Inexpensive and direct
  • Simplistic system which is easier to maintain

Cons of Dry Systems Collection

  • The tank must be located directly to the house
  • Can be seen as an eye-sore to some people
  • Generally a larger tank than a typical rain barrel

Wet Systems

Similar to the dry system, the wet system consists of a tank that is attached to the downspouts and gutter system of the house. The difference here is that instead of the pipes connecting directly to the top of tank, they go underground, and then above ground to connect to the side of the tank near its top. There is also a system of connections so multiple downspouts are connected to the tank versus just one in the dry system.

The rainwater fills the underground piping during a storm event and the water rises until it spills into the tank. In order for this to work the downspouts and underground piping must have water-tight connections and the elevation of the tank inlet must be below the lowest gutter attached to the house. The wet systems are more aesthetically pleasing because the majority of the pipes are located underground which allows the collection tank to be removed from directly beside the house.

Pros of Wet Systems Collection

  • Connections can be made from multiple gutter and downspouts.
  • Collection can be made from the entire collection surface.
  • Tank can be located away from the house.

Cons of Wet Systems Collection

  • Can be more costly due to the amount of connections and underground piping.
  • The height of tank and tank inlet are restricted by the height of the lowest gutter on the house.

Wrapping Up Rainwater Collection Systems

A rainwater collection system could be a great addition to your shipping container home. You can supply fresh and clean water to your house instead of relying on wells and municipal water. The amount of water you want to use is completely up to you and dependent on the type of collection system you decide on. The types of collection systems consist of the traditional rain barrel, a dry system, or a wet system. Depending on your specific needs and living situation, one system can be better than another.

No matter which system you choose, if you decide to begin your rainwater collection journey you are making a commitment to living a more environmentally positive and sustainable lifestyle. Enormous amounts of water are wasted every day and the general population is either unaware or uninformed of the dangers this can cause to our environment.

The bottom line is that all rainwater collection systems are easy to implement and can provide with so many benefits. Your shipping container home is the perfect place to start your water conservation movement so why not begin with building your very own rainwater collection system?