There are plenty of articles lately about new fill stations opening in Southern California (more importantly – the 4S Ranch area of San Diego County), and even more people on Twitter arguing that recycled water is not the answer (sigh). This brings up a perfect opportunity to share what recycled water haulers have learned about the containers they use.

Enter the RecycledH2O Container Shootout

Lets compare a 275 Gallon Tote to a Water Bladder to a 55 gallon barrel

275 Gallon Tote (IBC Tote, 300 gallon tote, 325 gallon tote, etc)


  • Large Quantity of Water – Guest blogger Bret said “I can soak my lawn or I can keep the water in the tote which provides with 2 weeks of water for my flowers and vegetables.”
  • Tie Down – The ability to use ratchet straps to secure the load. It is harder to secure a barrel or water bladder to the truck bed. With the totes cage you can really torque the straps to ensure the tote does not move around in the bed whether it be full of water or empty.
  • Large Volume, little price – The cost per gallon is low making a tote an inexpensive option. $100 average cost / 300 gallons = ~ $0.33/gallon
  • Food Grade totes are everywhere – Generally easy to obtain, especially if a farming community is nearby. Until farmers become aware to demand, users can normally get them for free or ~ $100. Check Craigslist to find them in your area.
  • Perfect for utility trailers – When placed in a utility trailer, it becomes the perfect package for hauling water as a small pump and all hose connections can be left in the trailer.
  • Large Inlet/Outlet size – The inlet on top is a 6″ opening, perfect for use with a sump pump or for putting a fill hose in. The outlet on the bottom is a 2.5″ connection with a built in ball-valve. Tote connections can easily be built with some Home Depot parts.

This lawn has been watered only with Recycled Water since Jan 1, 2015.


  • Heavy – Guest blogger Bret said “Puts added wear and tear on trucks. Have to drive more cautiously knowing I have 2500 pounds in my bed.” 300 gallons water weighs 2500 pounds.
  • Slosh – A half full tote will experience water slosh that could topple over if not properly secured or take your vehicle for a wild ride. See the video produced that drives this point home.
  • Loss of Cargo Bed – “If I want to run to Home Depot to pick up some bark, soil, wood etc,. I have to make sure the tote is empty and then unload it out of the truck prior to leaving for the store. Also, if I am not going to be picking up water, the storage of the tote can cause an issue. I store mine in my side yard, but even then I usually pull out a hand truck to maneuver it back there.”
  • Restricts view – Totes are taller than cab, use of rear view mirror is restricted as tote fills range of view.
  • Unsightly – “Lets be honest, as a car guy, I love the lines of a truck, big beefy tires, window tint, exhaust system; a large white water tank doesn’t give off the badass vibe. :)”

Water Bladder (Aquatank II – 100 gallon/150 gallon/300 gallon varieties)


  • Water evenly spread over axle – When full, the bladder has a low center of gravity and evenly disperses the weight over the axle. No top heavy tote issues. Due to its low height, most people on the road won’t know you have water in your truck bed so you don’t have to advertise that you’re hauling water, unlike with a large unsightly tote.
  • Folds up  when empty – The bladder will fold up into a space about the size of a 3-ring binder when it is empty. This allows for storage under the seat freeing up space in your truck bed for trips to the hardware store.
  • Lightweight – The bladder weighs less than 3 pounds when empty and is easy to move around. Even when paired with a movers mat to protect the bladder from a truck bed, it is still relatively light weight.
  • Connections – Fittings are standard garden hose size which makes filling and unloading simple.
  • Clear view with rear view mirror – Having a low profile enables clear view out the back window so you can safely know what is behind you.
Cleanup still a breeze.

Cleanup still a breeze.


  • No tie-down – While some consider this a hazard, a 150 gallon bladder (1250 pounds) won’t fly out of the truck during normal driving conditions, but tie downs are there for the non-normal conditions which a driver will face on the road.
  • Expensive – At $200 (with free shipping) for a 150 gallon container, the cost per gallon is much higher than with an IBC Tote. $200/150 gallons = ~$1.33/gallon
  • Breaks down when left in sun – A warning on the label stressed to not leave uncovered in the sun for long periods of time as the nylon fabric begins to deteriorate. I’ve had mine for over a year and it still works like a champ!
  • Needs extra protection – A recommendation found on another site said to place a movers mat under the bag to protect it from your truck bed. An easy fix, but still something to keep in mind.
  • Tricky to completely empty – Towards the bottom of the bag some tricky maneuvering is needed to get all the water out. Similar to compressing a toothpaste tube.

55 gallon barrels


  • Meets payload weight requirements – 3 barrels hold 165 gallons (1376 pounds) which is usually the maximum weight limit of most half-ton trucks.
  • Easy to unload – If the lid comes off, its easy to unload with a sump pump. Just drop in a sump pump and go. No special fittings or attachments needed.
  • Any vehicle can use them – They have been seen in the backs of Mini-vans and Subaru’s.
  • Cost – Barrels can be found on Craigslist or Ace Hardware for $40 for a 55 gallon barrel. Cost is ~ $40/55 gallons = $0.72/gallon


  • Heavy – When full, you must pump the water out before trying to move it. A full barrel weighs over 450 pounds.
  • Difficult to strap down – No tie-downs make it a little tricky to tie down. Grouping 3 together makes it easier, but that could exceed the weight limit on smaller trucks.
  • Top heavy – Barrels are pretty solid but could be considered top heavy. Position close to the cab when driving thus evenly dispersing the load weight across the vehicle. Stay away from positioning them to the back tailgate as it can cause your steering wheels to not get good contact with the road. Some people have laid them on their side and secured them in truck beds with 2×4’s to stop them from rolling.
  • Restricts rear view – Barrels are as high as a cab, thus restricting use of the rear view mirror.


Final Thoughts

Each container offers a different advantage and disadvantage. Choose one that best suits your needs. Ultimately it is up to you in finding the perfect container for your vehicle. Be sure to read your owners manual to find the payload capacity for your vehicle. Water is heavy (8.34 pounds per gallon). If you need some help finding a tank, a list has been put together to start your creative thinking.