Rain Barrels and Cisterns

Rainwater Harvesting - Water Catchment Systems

Rainwater collection or harvesting is a process that captures, diverts, and stores rainwater for a later use. Water catchment systems, such as cisterns and rain barrels, channel rainwater that falls onto roofs and other impervious surfaces into storage tanks by way of gutters and pipes.

Rain Barrels

Rain barrel installation is the most economical and easiest way to start harvesting rainwater. The barrel should be placed underneath a downspout, so that the rainwater falling on your roof is being funneled into the barrel.

A typical rain barrel consists of a 55-gallon plastic drum (food-quality), a spigot for draining, an overflow outlet, a hose, and a screen to keep out debris such as leaves and insects.

The spigot will enable you to draw water from the barrel and irrigate your plants and garden. You can also attach a garden hose to the end of the spigot and connect it to an irrigation system.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Water Cisterns

Cisterns can also be used to collect rainwater. Cisterns are larger storage tanks that provide considerably more storage than rain barrels, generally 200 gallons or more of rainwater. Cisterns work by collecting the rainfall that lands on impervious surfaces. Cisterns can collect water from multiple downspouts or even multiple roofs. Cisterns can be used as part of a storm water reuse application for residential, commercial, and industrial areas. Cisterns can be placed underground, indoors, adjacent to buildings, and on rooftops. Cisterns can be made of various materials such as metal, fiberglass, plastic, and poured concrete.

Cisterns are more expensive than rain barrels due to their larger size and additional parts. There are many online resources available, depending on what option you choose. The water collected in cisterns can be used for purposes such as filling ponds, fountains, watering large landscaped areas, water for livestock, flushing toilets, cleaning laundry, and washing cars.

The environmental benefits of using stored rainwater can be substantial. For example, flushing a toilet can account for up to 35% of the average household’s water usage and washing clothes can account for up to 22% of the usage, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.