The Rain Catchment Tarp

Samuel felt the wind shift a little. Even in the morning, the Texas sun beat down on his back and any breeze was a welcomed comfort. He continued pulling weeds, whispering a little prayer that God would bless his small garden and that it would produce enough vegetables to supplement what they couldn’t barter for. He was doing everything right. But he knew that prayer was a powerful thing.

As he continued in the garden, he noticed the sun go behind some clouds. As he looked up into the sky, he saw dark clouds forming. “Lord, let those come right over here,” he prayed.

It hadn’t rained in weeks. The rain barrels that he used to water the garden were running extremely low. He always kept an outward faith when Sally and the kids asked about water and other necessities, but inside, he was always prayerful. He knew that water was too important to not have, but sometimes, he felt powerless when he had to depend on the rain. He had done his best with building a rain barrel watering system and storing plenty of water, but you can never have enough. The present circumstances made that abundantly clear.

Samuel tried to have a backup plan if they absolutely ran out of water. There was a lake two miles away. Water was heavy and it would be work, but with a garden cart that he purchased off of Craigslist years before the breakdown, he would take some of the bigger containers down to Mr. Johnson’s house and access the lake from there. No locals would be upset that he was taking water because he would have Mr. Johnson next to him.

Ken Johnson was a retired city official. He and Samuel served as deacons at the church. They grew very close and would often confide in each other about issues in their spiritual lives. It was Mr. Johnson that started Samuel thinking about the breakdown years before it happened. He was glad he did! If a city official, who had his pulse on what was going on in city, state and national politics was concerned about where things were going in the government, that said something to Samuel.

Samuel remembered that his weekly connect with Ken was coming up. He would talk to him soon over the ham radio.

The drop in temperature snapped Samuel out of his thoughts. He looked up to see that the sky had darkened and it looked like it was going to rain, maybe even storm. A smile came to his face. He closed his eyes and said, “thank you Lord.”

He walked inside and called out, “Get the containers ready!”

Inside, Sally was in the kitchen cleaning up from breakfast. Joshua was in the garage sharpening his hatchet. And Emily was stitching up a hole in a pair of socks. They all heard Samuel and immediately dropped what they were doing. Each went into action. They knew what “get the containers ready” meant and how important it was. Samuel had made that extremely clear.

Samuel walked over to the closet and pulled out the tarp. He pulled it out, handling it gently, almost babying it. He knew how important it was and what it meant for his family.

Joshua took a few containers to the porch and then waited for his dad outside. Sally and Emily continued to bring every container that could hold water out to the porch.

As Joshua saw his dad coming to the backdoor, he walked out to the fence and grabbed a line of paracord that was attached to the fence. The end had a carabiner that would connect to one of the loops in the tarp. It was already starting to sprinkle, but no one worried about getting wet.

Sally and Emily helped Samuel unfold the big 40×50 foot tarp. It was huge!

Joshua ran from corner to corner connecting the tarp to lines that were tied to the fence.

When he finished, the tarp hung about 4 feet off the ground and was pretty much centered over the backyard. The paracord lines connected to the fence allowed the tarp to slant towards the backporch slightly, but if someone didn’t know it was designed this way, they would have never noticed it by just looking.

At the center of the tarp, closest to the back porch, Samuel pulled down on the tarp. He did so gently, but enough to cause any water hitting the tarp to funnel to the center and then run towards him. That is where Sally, Emily and Joshua took turns filling up containers of water and moving them inside.

Samuel came up with this idea years before when he looked into how many gallons of water he could catch in his rain barrels from his roof.

After you’ve found the square footage multiply it by 0.56 to determine how many gallons you can collect per inch of rain. This calculation assumes a 90% efficiency. To find how much rain you can collect in an average rain year multiply this number by the average inches of rain.

For example, on a 2,000 square foot roof, you can collect 2,000 x 0.56 = 1,120 gallons/inch of rain. If your average rainfall was 25 inches/year, your annual collection potential is 1,120 x 25= 28,000 gallons/year.

Greywater Action

When the last container was filled, everyone took a corner and unhooked the tarp from the carabiner. They brought the tarp under the porch, being careful to not drag it on the ground.

Under the back porch, Samuel and Joshua, with the help of Emily and Sally, folded it in quarters, the long way, like a hotdog. Once the tarp was folded, Emily and Sally wiped it down with clean towels to dry it as much as possible. When they finished, they flipped the tarp, unfolding it again and getting all the sides, taking pains to dry it as much as possible.

Samuel reminded his family, “we need to keep this tarp as clean as possible. The cleaner we keep this tarp, the cleaner our water will be and the less work the water filter has to do.”

After they dried off the tarp as much as they could, they took the tarp inside and laid it across the furniture in the living room to ensure no moisture remained on the tarp before they folded it up and put it back in the closet.

The excitement and focus of the whole situation wore Samuel out. After he inspected all the containers of water and made sure their tops were secure, he walked back out to the porch. He was wet. But he didn’t mind. He sat on the rocking chair and looked out at his garden that was getting watered by the Lord’s hand. His eyes traveled to his rain barrels that he knew were getting filled too.

He closed his eyes, bowed his head and whispered another, “Thank you Lord!”

Peace,
Todd

6 thoughts on “The Rain Catchment Tarp”

  1. Todd,
    Great story/ article. Anyone would be lucky to have a 40 x 50 tarp for this. Let alone the space for this in most back yards today. The premise works on any scale and i hope that is what people get out of this. It is really one of the easier methods to collect large amounts of water if you have the storage capacity. The fact that it can be rolled up and put away keeps prying eyes away.

  2. Thank you for this story/advice. I have 4 plastic bins set aside for water catchment and 2 tarps. I, unfortunately, live in an apartment complex but figure I could make something work to catch water in a SHTF scenario. I also have a number of bungee cords, paracord, carbiners, hooks and such to make such an arrangement.

  3. Nice survival story Todd. I love how we can estimate water catchment by the size of the tarp.

    I had to move my rain barrels for a while because we just replaced our roof and shingles. I like the idea of having a tarp as a backup in an emergency.

    When I was hiking I used a hammock and tarp shelter for overnight hikes. If it rained at night I would use the tarp to funnel the water into my water bottle and cook pot. From that to thousands of gallons by using a larger tarp is amazing.

  4. Good story. It is amazing how much water falls in rain. With three rain barrels, drawing off only the back half of the roof, they top up pretty quickly. I think about installing two more barrels for the front half of the roof, but I don’t hardly use up what’s in the back barrels before it rains again and fills them back up. But, I supposed as a hedge against gird-less times, I should have some barrels ready to deploy if the need arises.

  5. This story also serves as a great example of the fact that we dont just pray, and sit back and do nothing…we prepare and plan…using the brains and abilities God has given us!

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