Gravity Fed Water System: Off-grid Shower

Off-Grid Water

For many hundreds of years gravity fed water systems have been used to haul water from one place to another. Using the laws of gravity this system moves water from point A to point B and C if necessary. There is no electricity required for this system and usually no pumps of any sort. Thus, gravity fed water systems are simple but certain conditions are accounted such as:

  • The distance the water has to flow to reach its destination point.

  • The slope of the incline, which determines how fast and how easy the water flows.

  • The size of the pipe being used and if they have to interchange.

  • How many side extensions will be used.

  • The type of the terrain.

A gravity water system is used to pull the water from springs, streams, creeks, rain barrels, and rivers upstream or uphill from the water source.

This system can provide water to a home shower, gardens, animal barns, and even a building if it is set up properly.

Starting the Off-Grid Shower

Firstly, the fed water system for a shower that I will be informing about is not pulling water from springs, streams, a river nor a creek. Secondly, a solar pump, if needed, can be used to draw water up from your spring-fed cistern into the water barrel upstairs your house.

For an effective result install a water barrel above the shower in order to use gravity to allow a running shower.

Most commonly, a house designed for off-grid living will have a platform built directly above the shower for this specific purpose. If you don’t have an above shower platform, no worries, you can build or buy one.

The platform should be somewhere between 7-9 feet high in order to get a good pull. If you don’t have a functioning rain barrel they’re pretty easy to make, you can even use a heavy-duty 5-gallon bucket

Indeed, making use of the rainwater that falls freely from the sky provides tons of benefits in and around the home.

You can purchase a rainwater barrel or you can do it yourself. It is far less expensive to create it and set it up yourself than it is to buy a kit. Always try to save money and become one step closer to self-sustainability.

Supplies List to Build a Off-Grid Shower

  1. 30-50 Gallon Barrel
  2. 4-8 Concrete Blocks
  3. Piece of Screen
  4. 1 – Standard 1-inch Hose Spigot W/ ¾-inch Thread
  5. 1- ¾  X ¾-inch Bushing
  6. 1 – ¾ X ¾-inch Coupling
  7. 1 – ¾-inch Lock Nut
  8. 4 Metal Washers
  9. 1 – ¾-inch Pipe Thread W/ 1-inch Hose Adapter
  10. 1 Tube Eco-Friendly Caulking (Waterproof)
  11. 1 Roll of Teflon Thread Tape
  12. Bag of Pea Gravel – Enough to cover the surface ½-inch
  13. 1 S-Shaped Aluminum Downspout Elbow

Tools to Build Shower

Hacksaw, Pliers/Wrench, Tamper, Gloves, Level, Sandpaper and a Drill.

The Shower Barrel

Off-Grid Shower Barrel

Always wash out the barrel and let it air dry before starting.

  • First, drill a ¾- inch hole about 1 to 3-inches from the base of the barrel. This will be where the spigot is installed so you can easily access the water.

  • You have to caulk a full circle around the inside and outside the spigot hole and attach the spigot. This requires putting the spigot and coupling together and then using the threaded tape to wrap the threaded ends. This creates an airtight and waterproof seal. Your spigot will have a set of instructions you can follow for the rest of its installation. Just be sure to work from the outside to the inside.

  • Now it’s time for the overflow valve to be added. The overflow valve will be at the top of your water barrel; this will allow any excess water to flow into the next barrel. Simply drill another ¾-inch hole and piece together your pipes and fittings.

  • Set the barrel aside and give the caulking time to dry. This gives you the opportunity to work on making a level surface to build your barrel’s platform.


It should be noted, it is really important to build some sort of base for your barrel/barrels to sit on for a few different reasons. First, this will keep water from pooling up around the outside of the house or building, and it will make it easier to access the spigot.

Another good reason to have it raised up is to avoid the barrel from shifting and possibly tipping over. To get the ground ready for the platform you will have to dig a 5-inch deep rectangular shaped hole directly beneath the downspout. You will want the rectangle to come out on all sides about 3 to 5-inches to allow proper drainage.

Next, fill the freshly dug hole with a ½ inch of pea gravel, which also allows proper drainage of the water. If you have concrete where your barrel will be going then you’re ready for the next step.

The Platform for the Shower Barrel

Once your ground is level and the drainage set up then you can work on the platform. Keep in mind that you will want your platform to be wide enough and long enough to hold your barrel/barrels safely and securely. You can purchase pre-made platforms or you can build it yourself.

Remember, the further the distance the water has to travel is the higher a platform will need to be. If your water doesn’t have to travel far you’ll only need a 3-5 foot platform that is wide enough to hold your rain barrels but you can make it as high as you need, just remember it has to hold the weight.

Simply take your blocks and stack them sideways, directly on top of the pea gravel. This creates a basic platform. Some people like to use the blocks simply as support and place a thick board on top as the platform.

This platform is simple and basic. If you want to use a more sophisticated model, there are several types of blueprints available.

The Downspout for the Off-Grid Shower

Position the barrel on top so it lines up with the downspout. Attach the elbow piece to the actual downspout and work down from there. Measure the distance from the downspout to the barrel – this  way, you can tell how long your pipe will need to be and if it needs to be adjusted.

Attach your flow pipe to the elbow and get your filter in place. If your barrel does not have a hole in the lid you will have to use a hacksaw to cut your own hole.

So, why do some people prefer to use gravity fed water systems instead of electric or anything else? Well, the thing is depending on the location it could actually be one of the best options available. It’s free energy.

For others, it may be a case of being so far out in the woods that there is no running water. Remember, try to be self-sufficient as possible. Clearly, in a survival situation if the grid goes down having running water could give you a happier life!