You’ve seen the headlines “Winter Snowpack won’t end California Drought“, and maybe you’ve seen the water conservation tables for 2016. Despite a strong El Niño that filled our reservoirs and gave us a great ski season, we’re right back to where we were last summer.

By Governor Jerry Brown’s standard, we’re still in a drought, you still have to reduce your at home water usage. So what options do you have?

If you have a vehicle, you can haul recycled water from a treatment plant to your home and use it to irrigate your landscape – like lawns, flower gardens, trees, vegetable plants; or use it to make concrete or for dust control or re-filling your recirculating fountain or for flushing your toilets! Recycled water is perfect for anything that needs water but won’t be used for drinking by pets or humans.

Once you’ve established interest in hauling recycled water – there are three things you need to know before diving in.

  • Vehicle to transport recycled water with
  • Container include pump, hoses and lawn sprinklers
  • Motivation! It takes time & energy to haul water, time to drive to and from fill stations, to fill up and unload at home. Committing to doing this on a daily or weekly basis determines how much you want to invest in it. 

There is no cookie cutter solution yet, just simple principles that everyone has followed.

First – Water is heavy!

A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. So 10 gallons weighs 83.4 pounds, 100 gallons weighs 834 pounds, 200 gallons weighs 1668 pounds, 300 gallons weighs 2502 pounds.

Why does this matter? If you’re going to transport it, you need to use a vehicle that can handle the weight.

Gross Vehicle Weight Curb Weight = Cargo (Payload) Weight

Four vehicles and the volume of water they can safely haul.

Four vehicles and the volume of water they can safely haul.


What do you drive? A sedan? It can hold 850 pounds total. Subtract your weight and the weight of everything you added to the car, then subtract that from your total and you’ll figure out how much water weight you can transport. For most people with a clutter-free car, that could be ~ 600 pounds.

600 pounds is 72 gallons of water.

Two 40-gallon barrels in a mini-van.

Two 40-gallon barrels in a mini-van.


If you’re a parent with a mini-van – used to move your kids around to schools, baseball/soccer practice you know you can fit 8 people in your vehicle. Did you know it has a cargo capacity of around 1200 pounds? Much like the math we did above, you could probably put about 1,000 pounds of water in the van.

1,000 pounds is 120 gallons of water.


SUV’s are everywhere, sadly – the stats for its cargo weight are not. For this we subtract a vehicles Gross Vehicle Weight from its Curb Weight to find its Cargo Weight.

If we take the top recommended SUV for 2016, we find the Toyota Highlander is one of them. The LE version of that vehicle has a cargo capacity weight of 1,531 pounds. Subtract out your weight and any “stuff” you have in the vehicle and you find you can haul ~ 1300 pounds of water.

1300 pounds is 156 gallons of water.

Pick-up Trucks

If you’ve seen any one hauling water, its usually in a pickup truck with a large IBC tote in the back. Pickup trucks are generally the vehicle of choice. I drive a Ram 1500 which has a payload capacity of 1250 pounds (my truck has airbags for automatic ride leveling and my limit on total weight). Generally pickup trucks can carry ~ 1500 pounds. The 3/4 ton (F-250, 2500 series) or 1-Ton (F-350, 3500 series) can hold more than 2,000 to 3,500 pounds of weight. Please refer to the owners manual for your vehicle for payload capacities.

Lets take an 2016 F-150 for example which can hold 2,800 pounds payload, minus the driver and some gear (300 pounds) – 2,500 pounds.

2,500 pounds is 300 gallons of water. (Also the max volume a fill station is allowed to give away, per trip.)


Once you figure out how much weight your vehicle can carry, you can also figure out how much water you can haul. Now lets look at tanks that meet your needs.

Ozark Trail Desert Patrol 6-Gal Water Jug

Ozark Trail Desert Patrol 6-Gal Water Jug

For a sedan with trunk space, a few 6 gallon containers might be your container of choice. They have resealable lids (a requirement at all fill stations), and can reduce the risk of spilling water in your trunk.

A 6-gallon jug will weigh 50 pounds when full. They also cost ~ $12.97.

If you’re going this route, you’ll need 12 of them to meet your vehicle capacity, but ask yourself, what is your need? If you live in a condo and want to use recycled water to water your potted plants, you may only need 2-3 of these. If you want to use recycled water to flush your toilets, you might also only need 2-3.

Lets say a blue water barrel is more up your alley. This one pictured is a 30 gallon water barrel (next to a person for size comparison – courtesy of Walmart). This barrel is $61.39 and will weigh 250 pounds when full.

The key point in this case is you won’t be able to move it from your vehicle when it is full so keep in mind when you buy for how you will unload the water from the tank (more on this later).

Maybe price is not important to you, but ease-of-use and function is. The sky is the limit.

At you can buy a 32 gallon rectangle poly tank for $319.99. They can also install any fittings you need – important when you consider how you will unload the water from the tank.

150 gallon water pillow.

150 gallon water pillow.

If you have a vehicle that can transport 150 gallons, options begin to change. You could do two to three 55 gallon drums or my choice is a 150 gallon water pillow. I put mine in the bed of my pickup truck.

This pillow is a called an Aquatank II and costs $199.99, it comes with fittings for hoses already and when its empty, it folds up into the same space as a 3-ring binder. The only drawback is there is setup involved each time you want to fill up or unload water.

The 55 gallon drum option is shown in the picture above.

The most popular option that people choose is the 275 gallon caged IBC tote. You can generally find these tanks locally or on for much cheaper than Homedepot which will sell them at full price for ~ $299.

One of our most popular articles is a complete setup to filling to unloading article titled “Hauling 275 gallons of recycled water with an IBC tote” which will walk you through everything you need to do and get, if the IBC tote is your container.

There are plenty of other options available, your imagination is the limit – just remember – get a container that fits your vehicle capacity limits and your watering needs.


image_11360The most common pump I’ve seen is the Pacific Hydrostar 1500 gallon per hour utility pump from It sells for $79.99 (but couple this with their 20% coupons that come in the mail) and you can easily acquire this strong pump for ~ $64. An excellent deal!

This pump has been connected to IBC Totes, Aquatank II water pillows and 55 gallon drums.

For the more technical crowd, using old pool pumps have also been a pump of choice. People are quick to unload an old pool pump for free, and as long as you have the technical know how to wire it up for your needs, it becomes a perfect option. They pump a high volume of water quickly.

Putting it all together…

Now comes the age old question and one asked by Catharine Baker, Assemblywoman from the 16th Assembly District in California. “How do you unload recycled water from the tank once you get it home?”

The above video shows it best – if you’re unloading from a tote.

This same procedure for unloading was also used in the hauling water above. For smaller tanks – “Hand watering with recycled water” might be your best avenue. I learned a few months later the pump I was using was under-powered so I upgrade it to a higher flow rate pump in “Tips & Tricks To Unload Recycled Water More Efficiently.”

Basically – if you’ve gone so far to buy a tank for your vehicle, you probably have a mechanical mindset to figuring out how to hook it all up. The two previously mentioned articles provide adequate information for unloading your tanks.  If you have any questions, ask in the comments or on our Facebook page –

$5 lawn sprinkler watering front garden.

$5 lawn sprinkler watering front garden.

Where can I pickup Free Recycled Water?

Once you’ve made the decision to get the equipment you need to haul – you might want to make sure there is a residential recycled water fill station near you. Good thing RecycledH2O keeps track of that for you.