How To Make a Trash Can Rain Barrel

Trash Can Rain Barrel

Trash cans can serve many purposes in prepping supplies.

Rubber trash cans have a number of emergency uses. Today I picked up this 32 gallon one for $12. I can usually find them on sale for under $10 but I needed one quickly today. I make sure to buy the ones that are the thicker rubber, not the cheaper flimsy plastic ones. This one is made by Rubbermaid. I want to stress they are not food grade and not meant to store open bags of food and are not recommended for long term food storage. I know this, yet I do keep large unopened packages in them until I can get things properly stored. To me that is better protection than just having them lying about.

So, what can you do with them?

Have two near your water heater with a garden hose, flat-head screwdriver and the printed instructions for how to drain your water heater in case you are in a situation where your potable water supplies are running low. If a situation arises where you have exhausted your water supplies and drained your water heater, you can then turn the trash cans into rain barrels. Remember that this new rain water will not be potable water. You cannot drink it without first chemically treating it or filtering it. You can use bleach in an emergency to treat water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners. A medicine dropper comes in handy for this. However, using calcium hypochlorite (pool shock) is the best prepper plan for chemically treating drinking water.

compass saw needed for trash can rain barrel

This is a compass saw

It’s important to have the additional supplies needed to build your rain barrels on hand and to realize if you are at this point, you probably won’t have electricity for that fancy drill. My plan is to use a compass saw if no power was available. You can find the pvc parts in the plumbing section of any store like Home Depot. Watch the video below and as always, write down the instructions and store them in a safe place. I suggest storing the instructions in a ziploc bag with the needed supplies and taping it inside one of the barrels.


Calculating Drinking Water Storage Needs

Not many people would argue that water is one of, if not, the most important prep for the beginner to focus on. It’s estimated that you can not survive without water for much more than 3 days. In comparison, the average person can go several weeks without solid food. Though I certainly wouldn’t want to! Let’s do the math to help you calculate what your drinking water storage needs are!

How much water do you really need in an emergency? All the math is done here.

In my opinion, water storage is the first thing a beginning prepper should focus on. But how much do you need? The simple rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per person per day. Doing the math for a family of 4 that is 4 gallons a day. I plan 2 extra gallons for my two dogs and 1 cat. I also plan to be able to take care of my mom in an emergency bringing our family total to a minimum of 7 gallons per day. If you store that water in 16.9 oz water bottles you need 8 per person per day therefore my family would need 56 bottles a day.


Drinking Water Storage Needs

Water Math based on storing 7 gallons a day. Choose whichever form you would like to store it in.

3 days =

  • 4.6  water cases (36 16.9 oz bottles)
  • 12 2.5 gallon rectangle jugs
  • 21 gallon jugs
  • 42 2 liters

7 days =

  • 10.8 cases
  • 21 2.5 gallon rectangle jugs
  • 49 gallon jugs
  • 98 2 liters

Head starting to spin yet?

10 days =

  • 15.5 cases
  • 30 2.5 gallon rectangle jugs
  • 70 gallon jugs
  • 140 2 liters

14 days =

  • 21.7 cases
  • 42 2.5 gallon rectangle jugs
  • 98 gallon jugs
  • 196 2 liters

I have plenty of friends who have been in storms (hurricanes and snow) that did not have water for 5 days and electricity for 10. My personal family goal is to have enough water stored for 10 days. After that point, I have started to think of ways to purify water from other sources and have my water heater to drain as well.

I tend to store water in a variety of containers in combination. One of my favorite tricks is to wash out 2 liter soda bottles with a little bleach water, rinse really well and let them air dry. I refill them with tap water.

Start thinking about what spaces you have to store this water in. Cases do stack well and can use a smaller floorspace footprint. For general cost considerations:

  • I get the cases of water mostly at Costco for $3.75. Walmart is $4.25
  • I can find the 2.5 gallon rectangles on sale for $1.99 sometimes but $2.50 is average in my area
  • Gallon jugs can be anywhere from $.50-$1
  • 2 liters I consider “free to me” because I reuse the bottles the pop comes in as a treat for the kids now and then

Using those costs you can expect

  • 3 days= $18.75
  • 7 days = $41.25
  • 10 days = $60
  • 14 days = $82.50

I accomplished my goal by promising myself that every time I walked into a store I would buy one thing towards the water storage so it didn’t kill my budget or my back!

Don’t have enough drinking water storage and are facing an emergency?

You need one of these water bobs for each tub and water treatment tabs to add to the water bob to keep it fresh and safe. Additionally, these family lifestraws are perfect for filtering water you are able to collect. You want to have one with your emergency supplies no matter how much water you have stored.

I would love to hear your creative ways to purchase and store water! What tips do you have to share? Or are you completely freaked out at the mass enormity of how much water you would need just to drink?


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