Rain Barrels

What is a Rain Barrel

Rain barrels are containers designed to trap and store rainwater. They are usually 55-gallon food-grade barrels that offer UV-radiation protection, are easy to clean, and collect water from your roof through the downspout of your house. They can also be bigger, more complex systems that use pumps and linked barrels for storage. A rain barrel can cos­t as little as $20.00 to make (if you purchase a carwash barrel and do everything yourself), or as much as $100 for one that has everything built in.

How Rain Barrels work

The barrel is attached to the downspout of your house, through a hole in the barrel's top cover. A hose attaches to a spigot near the bottom of the barrel is a spigot with a hose attachment to easily use the water. Most rain barrels have overflow spouts that, in the case of heavy rain, diverts excess water out of the barrel without damaging the barrel, the home or surrounding area. The top of the barrel is covered to prevent contamination by debris or animals. The covered top also prevents mosquitoes from using it as a breeding area. The barrel is usually elevated using cinder blocks to provide easier access to the spigot. Place stone or pea gravel under the barrel to assist with drainage during overflow condition with the barrel on a cement block for proper elevation.


Benefits of Rain Barrels

Water conservation (rain barrels provide a free source of water for outdoor watering). Rain Barrels can save significant amounts of water by using water collected from rain for garden watering or car washing. They are especially useful in times of drought or dry and hot summer days! Rain barrels can help you save money.

How much can you expect to harvest from your roof? This simple formula will help you figure your potential yield, less any water you may lose from evaporation or spills:

  1. Measure the exterior length and width of your home, plus any roof overhang.
  2. Now multiply the two measurements together. A house that's 30 feet by 40 feet (around 9 by 12 meters) will have 1,200 square feet (almost 111.5 square meters) of roof catchment area.
  3. Now, multiply 1,200 by 0.6, the portion of a gallon that will be harvested by one inch of water falling on one square foot (0.09 square meter) of your roof's surface.
  4. Your 1,200 square foot roof catchment area will yield 720 gallons (a little more than 2,725 liters) of water from one inch (2.54 centimeters) of rainfall (30 x 40 = 1200 x .6).

Environmental impact. Rain is a good source of water that would otherwise become polluted runoff picking up chemicals and other dangerous waste as it carom­s down streets and gutters on its way to a network of storm drains or the nearest low-lying body of water. In many areas, rainwater harvested from the roof of an average home can go a long way toward providing the water needed to maintain a vegetable garden or your home's landscaping over the summer months.

• Rain water is better for plants than city water, which is chemically treated.


Other things to take note of:

• Disconnect the rain barrel if chemicals are used on the roof or house until residue has been washed away. Rain barrels should be disconnected during winter months to prevent ice buildup or damage to the barrel or downspout.


Good rain barrel resources:

How stuff works - Rain Barrels

Types of Rain Barrels

• If you would like to purchase a rain barrel through SCLT's Growers Network, please email Liza (liza@southsideclt.org)




Rain Barrels are easy to install, help save and cut costs of water. A 1,200 square foot roof catchment area will yield 720 gallons of water from just one inch of rainfall!