Rain Barrels 101: How to Collect & Use Rainwater

Rain Barrels 101: How to Collect Rainwater
Article Intro

Don't let good water go to waste.

When it rains, where does your runoff water go? If we had to guess, it’s probably through your gutters and out to the yard. But why not save it for future use? That’s where rainwater harvesting comes in.

What is a rain barrel?

Simply put, a rain barrel is a large container that’s somehow connected to a downspout—whether directly into the barrel or through a diverter system. They’re an effective way to conserve water and reduce your water bill. Not too bad for a simple afternoon project!

Why collect rainwater?

Collecting rainwater is a great way to keep your bills down in the summer. You can use the water to keep your garden, lawn and houseplants happy and hydrated or even to wash your windows.

Rain barrel image via HGTV.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Some states don’t allow rainwater harvesting, so it’s best to check local laws before starting this project.

How to Install a Rain Collection System

First you’ll want to determine which spot in your yard is best for a barrel. Clear some space and lay out a platform for the barrel (otherwise the water won’t flow as well). You can build one out of wood or use something as simple as cinderblocks.


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Whether you buy a dedicated rain barrel or make your own out of a garbage can, here are some questions you’ll want to mull over:

  • How does it hook up to the downspout?
  • How will I filter out debris?
  • How will the water get in?

If you use a diverter system, you’ll need a hacksaw to cut through the downspout.

You’ll also want to make sure the barrel’s set up with an overflow valve for the times when you can’t empty it in time for the next downpour.

Benefits of Using Rainwater

It’s better for plants.

Rainwater is highly oxygenated and lacks additives from city or well water. This makes it perfect for keeping your plants (and soil) happy and healthy.  

It’s better for the environment.           

Rainwater runoff is an issue for local waterways. As it flows down through your gutters and down into the storm drain, the runoff picks up all sorts of chemicals, from fertilizer to pesticides and even car oil. All that makes its way back into our ecosystem—unless you can harvest it in a barrel.

RELATED: How to Prevent Water Pollution with a Rain Garden

It’s good on your budget.

In the summer, water usage can go through the roof. From sprinklers watering your grass to cleaning off your cars. Using rainwater is a good way to offset some of the municipal water use, which saves you a little money!


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Don’t let good water go to waste! Adding a rain barrel to your yard makes it easy to conserve water and is a great activity to teach kids about eco-friendly alternatives.

So, what do you think? Will you be adding a rain barrel to your yard this spring?

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