__   _____________
water management
rain water storage and collection
open drum water tanks

Poly and galvanised iron water tanks can be quite expensive and are not practical for people on a tight budget, renting or living in temporary accommodation.  Open drums are the most cost effective way to set up a small water tank as they can easily be obtained second hand and do not require a pressure pump.  They are also easy to relocate should you move house.  They are  suitable for a small to medium sized vegetable garden, depending on the natural rainfall.

types of drums available
Photo of a 44 gallon drum water tank
Steel 44 gallon open drum water tank.

Photo of a 44 gallon open drum water tank base
The base of the tank sits on a concrete garden paver.

Plastic open drum water tank.  Note that the opening is slightly smaller than a steel drum opening, which makes it harder to draw water using a watering can.

Photo of a goldfish
One of two goldfish in my 44 gallon open drum water tank.  Goldfish are very effective in keeping mosquitos from breeding in the tank.

There are a wide variety of second hand drums available in Australia.    My preferred drum is a 166 Litre (44 gallon) steel drum as it has the widest opening, but there are a range of plastic drums available with capacities of up to 300 litres (80 gallons). 

However most of these plastic drums come with smaller openings, making it harder to draw water from them using a watering can. 

Most have been used to by the food industry, though it pays to ask what has been stored in the drums to make sure it was nothing really nasty.  Always give second hand drums a good hose out to make sure there are no residual chemicals left in them.

Buying open drum water tanks
In Australia a number of hardware stores sell second hand drums to store water in.  New drums are also available, but cost more.  In larger cities there are also stores that specialise in selling second hand 44 gallon drums. 

You should not be paying more than $50 AUD (Jan 2010) for a second hand drum with a capacity of around 200 Litres.

drawing water
The best way draw water from an open drum water tank is to dip a watering can into it.   In fact it is much quicker and easier to fill a watering can this way than by a mains water tap.  While it is possible to fit a tap at the bottom of these drums unless you have a pressure pump fitted it is a tedious process to draw water from them using a tap.

Keeping mosquitos from breeding
To keep mosquitos form breeding in the drum you can cover the top with a fine wire mesh, but I find the simplest method is to put in a couple of goldfish.  Not only do they keep out the mossies but they manure the water with their faeces .

Goldfish are very tough, being able to withstand extreme fluctuations in water temperature and quality.  As they are cold blooded animals they do not need much food to survive.  Mine mainly live off insects washed down off the roof into the tank, though about once a month I throw in a small amount of goldfish food to supplement their diet.

Naturally, water stored in this manner should not be used as drinking water.