Collecting rainwater isn’t just for homesteaders or preppers. When you make use of the water mother nature provides, you have an alternative to using municipal water or well water for irrigation.

Your garden will benefit from water that’s free of the chemicals and minerals that are often found in tap water. Rain barrels can also help reduce the volume of runoff entering the storm sewer and prevent too much water from entering your foundation, crawl space or basement.

You may be surprised to see just how simple it is to plan, install, and use a rain barrel to nourish your plants and garden area this year.


Plan to install the barrel at a downspout near where you need the water. When they fill up, they are heavy, so you won’t want to move it around much. Plan for overflow as well, and ensure that any excess water will flow away from the foundation. Some barrels include a hose that drains the overflow while others use an overflow outlet.

Choosing a Rain Barrel:

The size of your rain barrel depends on how much rainwater you’ll capture. A quick estimate is approximately half a gallon for each square foot of roof for every 1-inch of rain. So, a 1-inch rainfall on 100 square feet of roof will generate about 60 gallons of water. Choose a color and design that fits your landscape and home. Other features to look for might be a debris screen, opening lid, and/or a water outlet for a spigot or hose.

Installing a Rain Barrel:

Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and functioning before you install a rain barrel. Most barrels purchased will come with simple manufacturer’s instructions. Just be sure the barrel is not connected to any part of your home plumbing system. If you’re placing it directly on the ground, dig the area out to a depth of one or two inches and create a stable, level surface with gravel, sand, or pavers to prevent tipping. A 40-gallon barrel will weigh over 360 pounds when full so be sure you have sturdy placement.

Using Your Barrel:

Keep in mind the water you collect in your barrel is untreated. While it’s good for plants, it’s not meant for human or pet consumption, cooking, or washing. Use the water you collect as soon as possible. This prevents odors from stagnant water, algae growth and cuts down on mosquito problems. If you don’t plan to use the barrel for long periods of time or if you will be away for several days, remove it and reconfigure the downspout to handle the runoff. Before freezing weather arrives, drain and disconnect the barrel. Then clean it out and dry completely before storing it.

Having your own source of natural irrigation water is a great way to cut down on your utility bill while giving your garden the nourishment it needs. You may even be eligible for financial incentives from the city for using rainwater for irrigation. However, you may need a permit to create a rainwater collection system, so it’s best to check with your state, local or neighborhood regulations before getting started. In some cities storing your own rain water is forbbiden.

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