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How to Collect and Save Rainwater With a Rain Barrel

Updated on December 24, 2020
Photo of homemade rain barrel.
Photo of homemade rain barrel.

How To Collect Rainwater

Water bills are rising in most areas of the country and are expected to double in the coming decade due to growing shortages. You can save the rainwater that falls on your roof and washes down the storm drain to water your plants, even wash your car. You may even qualify for a local or state rebate in some areas, for installing a rain barrel or cistern.

How To Make A Rain Barrel.

You'll find a good video tutorial about how to build your own rain barrel at the bottom of this article.

Often there are rebates from your local water utility for purchasing your own rain barrel. You can now find rain barrels for sale at Home Depot, among other places.

Making your own rain barrel is fairly easy. You just need a food grade plastic barrel, some coarse screen to cover the top, and a valve and overflow tube. You attach the overflow tube just below the lip of the barrel to prevent water from spilling over the sides and creating a stain.

Considerations When Installing Rainwater Collection Systems

Make sue that you cover the top of any open barrels with a secure, heavy lid and screen, to keep kids and pets out of the barrel. Don't worry about the little bit of algae that collects in the barrel over time. It is not harmful to your plants.

You might consider installing a larger rainwater catchment system such as a cistern. You can purchase a 500 gallon tank from places such as Tractor Supply for a few hundred dollars and install it yourself, or have a local handyman do it for you.

When installing a large rainwater cistern, make sure that the ground can support the heavy weight and that you have built up a proper base. You'll want to truck in a load of sand or sandy loam to build a level base for the tank to sit on.

Making The Rainwater Collection Tank More Attractive

A big concern to many homeowners is the appearance of above ground rainwater cisterns.

To make plastic tanks more attractive consider ringing the tank with cedar fence pickets and banding them with a couple rings of galvanized strapping to create the appearance of an old wooden water tank or barrel. you can also surround the tank with bamboo screening or cover the gank with chicken wire and plant fast growing ivy to cover the tank.

Safety Of Rainwater Tanks

For cisterns at ground level, use only tanks with closed tops to prevent drowning accidents and to keep wild animals and birds from falling into the tank. Cover any openings large enough for cats for birds to enter with heavy gauge screen mesh.

If you plan on drinking water from your rainwater collection tank, you should consider adding a UV sterilization device, as well as a filtration system to remove pathogens.

Adding More Water Supply To Your Tanks

If you roof space that's not collecting water for your cistern, consider having a gutter installer come and add any additional gutters you might need and to divert those gutters into your tank. You might also consider adding a small electric pump so that you can run sprinklers or wash cars with the water you collect in your rainwater cistern.

DIY Rain Barrel Video From Penn State University


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