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Easy Rainwater Harvesting: Rain Barrels

how to harvest rainwater with rainwater barrels

Learning how to harvest rainwater is the perfect way to do your part in helping the environment – and save money!

Spring is almost here, which means it’s time to start thinking about landscaping again. I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase “April showers bring May flowers”. Well, we are going to help you use those showers to save money and water. We’ll focus on how to harvest rainwater and create a more sustainable way (for your yard and your wallet) to landscape using rain barrels.

Read the full post here…

Financial and Environmental Benefits

Depending on the region, between two to four times more water is used during the summer months than the rest of the year because of landscaping care. Fresh water isn’t cheap and rain water is free! Reducing your summer water bills by harvesting rainwater is extremely cost efficient considering how much water is needed to keep the landscape of your hotel, living community, or restaurant healthy and attractive.

Learning how to harvest rainwater can help reduce water costs in your hotel landscaping, and save you money!

“Rain Barrel” courtesy of Flickr user Arlington County.

As an added benefit, collecting rainwater is great for the environment too! It helps to keep excess rainwater out of the sewers, reduces water runoff that causes erosion, and even protects the foundations of your buildings. One of the most important functions of a rain harvest collection system is that it prevents rainwater from becoming polluted stormwater runoff, which to date is the biggest remaining threat to clean rivers and lakes in the United States.

Rainwater is also a naturally occurring source of soft water. This makes it perfect for use in landscaping, gardening, washing windows, or even cars. It even makes it usable as drinking water if treated with the proper filtration!

Collecting rainwater by using rain barrels also means that your when your business’s landscape needs water most, you’ll have a reserve store of water. This can come in very handy in the event of a drought. One rain barrel can save up to 1,300 gallons of water during the height of the summer months. Installing and equipping multiple rain barrels, or a multi barrel system as they are referred to, increases the amount of water and money you’ll save. This can be incredibly helpful when your lawn/garden are at their most vulnerable.

Buy or DIY?

So now, let’s determine how to harvest rainwater by implementing a system. It’s surprisingly easy to install a rainwater harvesting system on your property, and doesn’t require the expertise of a professional service. A multi-barrel system is ideal for a business because storing large amounts of water for later use is imperative to maintaining a healthy lawn all summer long.

There are quite a few options available to the savvy landscape and gardening practitioner. Rain barrels can be purchased or can be made from basically any food grade storage barrel. In either case, they can be retrofitted or painted to serve all sorts of aesthetic functions — this is a great opportunity to engage with your local community and seek volunteers from a local school or scout troop to paint and improve your rain barrel’s aesthetic appeal.

Installation is as easy as adjusting the downspout to pour directly into the barrel (though it will need to be shortened), or by attaching a water diversion system into the downspout. Below is a basic guide to getting set up:


There are 2 main options to consider while looking for a rainwater collection barrel.

Rainwater collection containers come in a few shapes or sizes. Learn how to harvest rainwater and save on watering costs!

“Rain Barrel” courtesy of Flickr user Arlington County.

  1. Rain barrels are often available at your local hardware store or through your city’s co-op environmental service, like the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD).
  2. You can repurpose old industrial use barrels, such as food storage containers, terra cotta pots, soda drums or any other large container with a holding capacity of at least 30 gallons.

If you decide to repurpose a barrel, make sure that they are capable of surviving all outdoor weather conditions. An ideal rain barrel will be non-toxic, and resistant to mold, rust, mildew and rotting. You’ll also want to consider putting the barrels on small stands; this provides more water pressure due to downward force and allows easier access to the spigot at the bottom.


If you purchase your rain barrels from a retailer, it is probable that you will receive a kit that includes all of the tools and instructions you’ll need. Going the DIY route is almost as easy, and more cost effective than purchasing an existing barrel from a retailer. There are a few different set-ups that you can install, but all of them hook up to the downspout attached to the gutters around your roof. Here’s what you’ll need for the most common system:

  • Diverter
    • Some attachments to the downspout require drilling a hole and inserting a diverter directly into the downspout. A hose connects from the diverter into the top of the barrel.
  • Spigot
    • There will either be a hole near the bottom of your barrel, or you’ll have to drill one to insert the spigot. This is a simple device that can be turned on or off with the twist of the handle. Some are made for garden hose attachments, whereas others are just pour spouts.  It’s important to keep gravity in mind when attaching a hose, so make sure the hole placement (and the barrel itself) is elevated enough to allow gravity to effectively carry the water through the entire hose.
  • Mosquito/Debris Screen
    • If your barrel has an open top, a screen that keeps bugs and other debris out is a must.
  •  Linking Kit
    • These hoses attach multiple rain barrels together, allowing for greater storage. When the first barrel overflows, the excess water begins filling the second barrel and so on.

The DIY option is incredibly easy and ridiculously cost-effective, making it a very viable consideration for anyone with landscaping needs during the summer. This is an investment that has immediate returns, and pays for itself in more ways than one. They’re great for the environment and great for your company’s bottom line. What’s not to like about rain barrels?

Image “Rain Barrel” courtesy of Flickr user barbndc licensed under CC by 2.0. Featured image licensed under CC by 2.0.


One Response to Easy Rainwater Harvesting: Rain Barrels
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