How It Works

Catch rainwater…

…from a roof with gutters.

Store rainwater…

…in barrels, both big and small, which can be plastic, fiberglass, concrete or metal, so long as it’s nonporous and smooth — even a garbage can will work.

Use collected water…

…either by filling a watering can or attaching a soaker or garden hose to water plants.

Start With a Drum

Many people make rain barrels out of inexpensive 50-gallon food-grade drums that were used to carry juices, olives, pickles, etc. Often you can find barrels for around $10 from drum and barrel suppliers.

Be sure to get a heavy-grade plastic container that won’t let in light — clear or translucent barrels can speed the growth of algae, which can clog pipes.

Learn how to make a rain barrel

The water savings from using stored rainwater rather than municipal or well water can be substantial over a period of time. A rain barrel can also help reduce the amount of water that may settle around the foundation of your home.

Uses for Collected Water

  • Connect to a soaker hose (with the pressure-reducing washer removed)
  • Fill a watering can and hand-water plants, flower beds and gardens
  • Keep your compost bin moist
  • Rinse off gardening tools

How Much Rainwater Can I Collect?

A typical 1/2-inch rainfall will fill a 50- to 55- gallon barrel. Figure about a half gallon of water per square foot of roof area during a 1-inch rainfall. A 2,000-square-foot roof can collect about 1,000 gallons of water (accounting for about 20% loss from evaporation, runoff and splash).

What About Filtering?

Leaf debris, bird droppings and chemicals from roof material won’t likely be harmful to plants. Use a window screen or wire mesh to keep out debris and insects, and clean the tank periodically to remove any settling.

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