Amy Suarez | |
Bag or barrel, madam?

Ontario water storage company Tuff Tech Bags launched a line of flexible water storage barrels this week, for rain water collection and storage of drinking water.

It is just possible that you are able to contain your excitement at this news. But water storage has long been one of the most serious constraints on off-grid life -especially for mobile and temporary settlements.

Festivals, camps, summer houses, mobile homes and ski lodges have all needed large, expensive to buy and expensive to install water storage tanks and barrels.The advantages of the Tuff Tech ‘barrels’, are several. Although they are really just plastic bags on steroids, they are self-supporting, can be located anywhere, are light, cheap, don’t crack when frozen and they don’t need expensive ground works. They can be packed away when not in use. Crucially, the manufacturers claim that they are UV proof –a vital consideration when storing water.

The bags, sorry barrels, come in 150 gallon to 500 gallon sizes and cost between $370 and $630. They are sold with everything needed for installation, including a downspout filter and diverter, 24 feet of flexible hose, stainless steel hose clamps, downspout straps and screws.

And for what its worth, they are available in twenty colours. Tuff Tech founder Robert Roszell said: “Our bags were first designed for large vehicles needing anti-icing, today people are now using Tuff Tech bags to haul water, haul sludge, fight fires, pre-wet surfaces, and irrigate and fertilize large areas. Now with smaller sizes available,

The company says that the barrels are not only for off-gridders. They are a cheap way of storing harvested water for conventional homes that want to reduce their water consumption in chores like car cleaning, garden watering ..and for that all-important outside shower.

Working out how big a water storage barrel you need depends on what you are using the water for, how many people it is serving and if you are harvesting, the rainfall available.
The United Nations recommends 11 gallons per person per day for drinking washing and sanitation. But that would be scarcely enough for a decent bowel movement in the US where people directly consume an average of 120 gallons per day.

However a recent study in the UK showed that when you include ‘embodied water’ in food, consumer durables and energy, the figure could be seven to ten times that amount. For example one kilogram of grain-fed beef needs at least 15 cubic metres of water and even a kilo of cereals needs three cubic metres.

Rainfall in the US ranges from seven inches a year in arid Arizona to 59 inches in swampy old Louisiana. Tuff Tech says that 1000 sq. ft. of roof area (no matter what its slope) delivers approximately 600 gallons for every inch of rain.  In Arizona your roof would scarcely support one person. In Louisiana it could sustain a family of eight.

It is important to remember however that though it comes from the sky, rainwater may be contaminated. It can contain a long list of toxins including animal and bird faeces, mosses and lichens, windblown dust, particulates from urban pollution, pesticides, and inorganic ions from the sea.

So purification is a must.

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

4 Responses to “Water storage barrels”

  1. Victor

    interesting concept, but for the price, one can find something much more practical, more durable and better looking. I mean, if you want a cheapo plastic way of storing 500 gallons, try a above ground pool.

    Reply
  2. dementas

    Are you kidding? Here in Florida you can buy plastic or steel drums; open or bungles from $15 to $25, much better unless you are riding in a bike. I mean, the solution is good but the price is outrageous.

    Reply
  3. katlupe

    Too bad they are made of plastic.

    Reply
  4. Amy Edge

    good idea, but I disagree about the amount of water and how many people it supports. We live in South Texas, our rain totals vary from year to year, but with the amount of water collected even in a low year, enough water is provided to live on…

    Reply

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