We've stayed in touch with a reader who goes by the nickname Mountain Goat, and he often shares pieces of advice based on his firsthand experience working towards self-sufficiency on his remote ranch in the Southwest. In the past, we've posted his tips on layered outerwear for driving in harsh winter weather and quick-access clothing for nighttime emergencies. Today's topic is water storage — this conversation came up after he read the article on this same topic from Issue 28 of our magazine.

Here's what Mountain Goat wrote about his philosophy on emergency water storage:

Your article on Long-Term Water Storage for Survival was good advice to wake people up to the fact that they need to store water. Storing backup water is something I've done most of my adult life. Many years ago I was living in an apartment, and this habit paid off when the maintenance people unexpectedly turned off the water. I didn't skip a beat and just continued getting ready for work. It wasn't a life or death situation, but it was a good example of the importance of having an emergency supply on hand.

These days, I live on a ranch. We currently carry 4 gallons of water in the back of each of our vehicles, in addition to a more-than-adequate supply of drinking water in the passenger compartment. We also have about 100,000 gallons of stored water on the property. I'll discuss the details of this setup below.

Rainwater Collection

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The photo above shows a 500-gallon tank to collect water from the downspout of one of our cabins. Please note the metal roof. We don't use Clorox or a system of dumping out and replacing water. We filter the water through a British Berkfield (Berkie) type water filter:

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Looking closely, you can see that these are actually different brands, but we call them all Berkies. The filter elements are interchangeable. The ceramic filter elements can be cleaned with an abrasive scrubber and rarely need to be replaced. This is an upper and lower manual pour-through design which doesn't require any water pressure or electric power. We use the filtered water for our cooking and drinking and unfiltered water for washing.

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This photo is one of our large holding tanks for storage of surface water. This one is 200,000 gallons. Water tanks can be expensive, roughly $1 a gallon, so we collect surface water in ponds that we have dug and dammed in a place where water naturally runs. Then we pump it up into the holding tanks.

In the southwest the ponds are called dirt tanks. Here's a picture of a dirt tank and a solar panel with a fence around it to keep animals from jumping on the panel:

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Water Pumping & Distribution

We usually pump with what is called direct-drive solar. In this case it is a 24-volt DC pump in the tank with a 24-volt solar array powering it. Direct-drive means there are no batteries, no electronic controller, and no inverter. The panel is wired directly to the pump. It simply pumps when the sun shines on the panel. This system works amazingly well. The pump is a cylindrical type designed to be submerged by lowering into a well. The pumps are in the $800 range so with the panels, submersible wiring, and flexible pipe the cost is maybe $1200 plus. Unfortunately the pump needs to be rebuilt every few years.

We also have gas powered pumps that we use occasionally. The dirt tank water is used to water gardens and livestock.

Someone living in an urban area may want to obtain a rain catching tank that's as large as possible, put it behind their high fence, then pump the extra water to an even larger storage tank hidden in the back of the property. All this is depending on the size of the property, of course.

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Here's a tank that we use to store extra roof water in if the tank that collects it off the roof gets full to overflowing. We pump it up there with a gas-powered pump. One can also pump water from one storage tank to another by lowering the 24V DC pump into the full tank with the solar panels leaning up against the tank. We commonly do this.

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Here's a portable “water buffalo” trailer which we can tow somewhere to either collect or deliver water. Note the small gas-powered pump in the bed next to the tank. We currently use this to water a garden, so it's permanently parked there. 

If you'd like to learn more about water storage, I suggest a book by Brad Lancaster titled “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Vol 1”.

Cheers. Thanks for the valuable service that RECOIL OFFGRID provides. It amazes me that most people seem to think that disasters are things that happen somewhere else. Happy water saving!


There's a lot of great info here — we especially appreciate the portion about building a standalone solar-powered water pump. This is a great solution for collecting water from an existing pond or a manmade collection tank, and it's low-maintenance and doesn't require connection to the electrical grid. Best of all, aside from the initial investment in this system, keeping it running is essentially free.

Of course, having a gas-powered backup pump for quick access is also wise. The “water buffalo” trailer serves this purpose and is also portable, so it serves as both a collection tool and a transportation vessel.

If you'd like to contact Mountain Goat for any questions about his water collection and storage system, you can email him at mudsnowchains@gmail.com. And if you have a valuable emergency preparedness tip you'd like to share with our readers, we want to hear it. Click here to send an email to our web editor.

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