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How to Collect Rainwater Without Gutters (Simple Methods to Try)

How to Collect Rainwater Without Gutters (Simple Methods to Try)

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Water is one of the most useful resources on our planet. We use it to rehydrate, for irrigation, and in most cooking.

Because of that, we go through a massive supply of the liquid every year. This can have a huge impact on our total monthly bills.

One way around that is gathering rainwater. It’s an easy way to acquire fresh water at a low cost. However, without a roof or a gutter, this process can be a little complicated.

Let’s take a look at how to collect rainwater without gutters and what you’ll need.

Rainwater Harvesting

As you can probably guess by the name, this is the process of collecting rainwater. This practice has been around for hundreds of years.

In a landlocked area, people would depend on rain to get a sizable portion of their water supply. They would harvest the liquid and use it for gardening or as a source of drinkable hydration.

Traditionally, we would create small vessels to collect rain as it fell. Over the years, these developed into large and complicated systems.

Today, rainwater harvesting isn’t a major part of our society. While some still use the technique, many of us rely on indoor plumbing.

Unfortunately, that means we miss out on some of the advantages of rainwater.

Rainwater Harvesting Advantages

Even though the process is slow, there are many advantages to harvesting rainwater.

No Cost

One of the main advantages of collecting rainwater is that it’s free. You can gather as much as you want without any additional cost. This can come in handy when your utility bills are out of control.


Rainwater occurs when a large body of water evaporates and precipitates over Earth. While that liquid is boiling off, it leaves behind any impurities that may be swimming in it.

That means the water falling from the sky should, in most places, be safe to use.


Since the water is as pure as it gets, you can use it for several applications. First off, when it comes to irrigation, rainwater is the perfect addition.

Since the water is mostly free of minerals, salts, and other solvents, we consider it soft. This means it can replenish your plants and balance the soil pH.

Easy Setup

Another reason rainwater collection may interest you is how simple the setup is. With a few items, you can create a system that will passively collect water for you.

In addition, it’s usually a one-and-done kind of deal. So, once you put the system in place, you can use the mechanism constantly without effort.

On top of that, the process is completely environmentally friendly. You won’t need any power to operate the device.

How to Collect Rainwater Without Gutters

A gutter system is one of the simplest and most effective ways to collect rainwater. The main function of the pipes is to drain water from the roof. All you’ll need to do is add a bucket in front of the downspout, and you’re done.

However, not all of us have the luxury of gutters. If you’re camping outdoors or live in a high-rise with no roof access, the process will be a little complicated.

You’ll need to devise another system to help you gather rainwater. Luckily, there are a few different easy methods you can try out.

The Barrel/Bucket Method

When looking for a quick way to collect a little rainwater, a barrel or bucket may be the way to go. This method requires very little setup. You can use any container that has some depth to it.

After placing the container outside, sit back and relax while you gather water. Even though this process is simple, it has a few drawbacks.

First off, normal buckets or containers have limited surface areas. This is an issue because rain spreads out over a large space. That means you won’t be able to collect massive amounts of water this way.

On top of that, no matter how deep the bucket is, eventually, it’ll fill up. So, with heavy rain, you’ll find yourself constantly having to empty out the vessel.

Finally, if you place the open barrel in direct sunlight for too long, algae may start to grow. This will add an extra filtration step to the process. To prevent that from happening, choose a spot in a shaded area and clean out the bucket regularly.

The Tarp Method

Another common rainwater collection process involves using a tarp. This is a large plastic canvas that’s waterproof.

The material is incredibly lightweight and pliable, so you can set it up in a few different ways to gather water.

For this process, you’ll need:

  • A tarp
  • Supporting poles
  • Collection vessel

The main mechanism behind this method relies on gravity. Once the rain falls out of the sky, you want to use gravitational pull to collect it in one area. To do that, you’ll need to place the tarp at specific angles.

Start off by sourcing your tarp. There are a few different types of canvases you can use. Yet, for this project, it’s best to find a heavy-duty option. This is because the plastic will spend a lot of time in the sun. Other than that, you can use any shape, size, or color.

After that, move on to finding an ideal spot. Look for an open area that gets plenty of rain. Then, fold out your tarp and get it ready for installation.

At this point, pull out the supporting poles. How many you need will depend on the shape of your tarp. For a square canvas, you’ll need four supports, one at each corner.

Once all of this is ready, you have a couple of options for the setup.

Gentle Slope

The easiest way is to lay the tarp on a gentle slope. To do that, two of the supports should be longer than the others.

Secure the taller poles to two adjacent corners of the tarp. At this point, you should have a plastic sheet at about a 45-degree angle.

Remember, the steeper the slope is, the less water you’ll be able to collect.

Finally, place a bucket next to the shorter end of the setup to collect water.

Center Opening

If all of your supports are the same length and you can’t shorten them, go for this method. Instead of leading the water with a slope outwards, you pull it inside the tarp.

After you plant your supports, secure the canvas on top. Make sure that the plastic is loose enough that it sags in the middle.

Then, cut a sizable hole, about 2 inches in diameter, at the very center. Once that’s done, place a bucket under the opening and get ready to collect rainwater.

The Butterfly Method

While the tarp method is incredibly effective, it’s not always an option. When you’re on a camping trip, resources tend to be scarce.

So, you may not have the necessary supplies to construct the system. In that case, you’ll want to use whatever gear you have to create a butterfly water collector.

For this process, you’ll need:

  • Scrap material
  • Duct tape
  • Bucket

The main construction of the system revolves around two flat surfaces. You can use any waterproof material for this part.

For example, vinyl scraps, plastic containers, and old metal cans should do the trick. If you’re going to use a natural material, like wood, you’ll need to do a little prep work.

What you’re looking for is a smooth surface for water to slide across. Since rough wood can hinder the collection process, you’ll want to sand it first.

Once you have your two surfaces, the next step is to join them. Find a flat edge on both items and bring them together to create a V-shape.

Try to make the V as wide as you can to collect as much rain as possible.

The best way to secure this contraception is duct tape, but you can also use loose thread in a pinch.

After you assemble the butterfly, place it in an open area at a slight angle. Then, all that’s left is to position a bucket at the ready to collect water.

The Diverting Method

At first glance, it seems like rain pours randomly in any direction. Yet, depending on the landscape and wind direction, the water will collect in a specific area.

Unfortunately, sometimes your location may be far away from the collection point. In that scenario, you’ll need to use diverters.

This method employs the same operating principle as gutters. It uses a series of tubes and pathways to divert water from one location to another.

To get started, you’ll need a few supplies:

  • Tubes
  • Duct tape

Ideally, the tubes should be PVC or metallic piping. Still, without access to those, you’ll need to get a little crafty.

You can use empty cans and plastic bottles. All you have to do is chop off the tops and bottoms to create hollow cylinders.

After you collect all the tubes you need, attach them in a single line using duct tape. Make sure to seal all the connections to stop water from leaking out.

Sadly, this method will only work if you live downhill from a natural rain collection spot.

The Drainage Method

The drainage method involves relying on the landscape to collect water. Since rain will travel downhill, you just have to be there to catch it.

If you don’t live on a natural slope, you may have to create your own. Using a shovel, or even your hands, you’ll contour the ground to suit your needs.

Start by building up a short tower, about 5 feet tall. For this part, you can use rocks, mud, or scrap from around.

Then, with more mud, create a slope connecting the top of the tower with the ground. Once the structure is complete, spend a little time smoothing all the surfaces.

After that, it’s a good idea to line the outside of your construct with fabric or vinyl. This will prevent the mud from contaminating the water.

Finally, place a bucket at the base of the slope you created.

The Pit Method

When you’re out of supplies and tools, the easiest way to gather water is with a pit.

This process is self-explanatory and includes digging a shallow hole into the ground. You can use your hands for this part, but to avoid hurting them, try using any object around you.

Once you have a deep enough area, smooth out the edges and clear it of any debris. Any water you collect here will need a good cleaning before you use it.

Cleaning Rainwater

Depending on where you live, rainwater isn’t always safe to use right away. That’s why it’s good practice to clean the water before you use it.

What tools you have access to will determine the best course of action. Water filters are the best way to make sure your water is clean.

Yet, if you don’t have those, a good alternative is to heat the liquid. Bring the water to a roaring boil and keep it there for about a minute.

After that, let the water cool off before you use it.

Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering how to collect rainwater without gutters, there are a few things you can try.

Two simple ways to go about it are the bucket and tarp methods. These are easy enough to execute and collect plenty of water.

However, with scarce resources, you can opt for the butterfly or diverting processes. If you’re in a real pickle, the drainage and pit options may save the day.


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