This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Yurt Life

We’ve been living in a Mongolian Ger for a little while now and are loving this more minimalist lifestyle!  Since there is no plumbing we do have to get creative about things like using the bathroom.  In this post I’ll show you how we collect our drinking water using a metal roof and a cistern.

The Mongolian Ger

We moved into this Mongolian Ger a little while ago.  It’s also commonly known as a Yurt, which is a large circular tent designed for nomadic lifestyles.

The Ger has a layer of weather resistant cloth around the outside which means a roof over the top isn’t totally necessary.  However, a roof has the added benefit of providing a large surface area for collecting rainwater, so the owner of the farm opted to build one anyway.  The wooden elements on the corners in the photo above serve as the supports for the simple roof structure.

The Roof and Gutters

In the photo below you can see the back corner of the roof where the gutters collect the rain water and dump it into the cistern.

The large surface area of the roof increases the amount of rain water which is collected.  It’s also angled slightly downwards towards the back side where gutters line the edge.  The water all flows down in this direction, pools in the gutters, and is dumped into the cistern below through a single opening on the bottom.

The Cistern

Here’s a look at the large green cistern behind the Ger which is at least half full of rainwater at the moment.

Based on the dimensions of the cistern I’m guessing it holds about 500 gallons of water.  Assuming I drink a gallon of water a day I have more than I need to survive for an entire year, and in the Pacific Northwest it’s continually being refilled!  That extra water is used to hydrate a large garden downhill from the front of the yurt, so none of it goes to waste.

Water Spout

On the front of the Cistern is a little water spout which we use to collect the water.

This spout gives us convenient access to the rain water whenever we need it.  A hose can also be connected here to move water to other places around the property.  The water pressure comes solely from the weight of the water inside of the cistern, and flows very strongly when it’s got a lot of liquid inside.  When using the hose it’s best to be directing it downhill from the cistern, since the higher uphill you go the more water pressure you need to get a flow going.

Filtering the Water

The last step before drinking the water is to filter it through our  Big Berkey Gravity Filter.

Rain provides some of the cleanest drinking water you can find, however it does come in contact with a metal surface and then sits stagnant in a plstic tank for months at a time, so it’s important to filter it before drinking.  We use a Big Berkey Water Filter because it has been shown to remove most harmful contaminants and doesn’t require electricity since it relies purely on gravity.

The water is poured into the upper half of the metal container and slowly drains through the 4 ceramic filters.  It also possible to attach additional filters to the bottom which filters out things like fluoride and arsenic, but those aren’t necessary in this situation.

So that’s the quick tour of our rain water collection setup outside the Mongolian Ger.  Feel free to let me know if you have any questions in the Comments section below.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cahlen Lee

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  1. Smitty

    I have not seen how you direct your smoke out from the Yurt. Getting the smoke flavor in your water can be noxious. I doubt it would filter out with the Berkey.

    1. Cahlen Lee Post author

      The stove has a chimney going up through the center roof ring of the Ger and then up through the metal roof above, so it never comes in contact with the water.

      1. Smitty

        OK, good luck with that! I’ve spent years trying to solve the roof catchment smoke issue and finally gave up when I found a sweet water karst spring up the road. Seems like as the rain falls through the smoke it picks up the flavor. Or maybe it’s just the creosote particles on the roof that wash off into the holding tank. Either way, some sort of 1st stage filter on your tank inlet ain’t a bad idea to keep mosquitoes and heavy particles out. Also, if you want to get serious you can develop a diverter valve to allow flushing the roof after a dry spell. These comments come from 30 years of living in the AK rainforest heating and cooking with wood, with the stove going most all the time. Looking forward to seeing some garden development articles too!

      2. Cahlen Lee Post author

        Interesting that the water picks up so much of the smoke. The tank we used was filled earlier in the year before the stove was heavily used, so that might account for the lack of taste.

        The owner of the farm does most of the gardening, but I do produce her YouTube videos if you want to check those out:

        By the way, the video in this article was filmed last year. I’m going back through my videos from early and writing articles about them until I catch up to now. I’m away from the farm in the Winters now to live nomadically until the weather improves up North.



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