Rainwater Harvesting Rain Barrels Connecting your Barrel


Your barrel should be installed in an area in which it is convenient to use, and an area near where the water is currently being directed. For homes without gutters, look for valleys in the roofline and areas underneath which have disturbed soil or mulch. Installing the barrel here will ensure it is filled during a rainfall event.

For those with a gutter system installed, you will need to reduce the length of your downspout as needed. Some can be shortened easily by removing a screw or rivet. Others will need to be carefully cut, using a hacksaw or reciprocating saw with a blade manufactured to cut thin metal.

Downspout extensions, elbows, or adapters may also be necessary to divert rainwater into your barrel. This PVC version is flexible and can easily be bent towards the barrel opening. There are many other options as well which can be purchased to match the material and color of your existing gutters. Many people like the look and interest that a rain chain provides. Just be sure that your new downspout or adaptor does not rub or damage your vinyl mosquito netting.


Tips for storage container placement and use include:

  • Make sure your barrel is installed so that it is level and secure. A base of decomposed granite, gravel or other pervious aggregate helps prevents soil erosion around the barrel.
  • Elevate your barrel to take advantage of gravity flow; for example, place them at the higher end of a sloped lot or set them securely on top of a sturdy base like cinder blocks.
  • Put storage containers near plants and near or at the end of downspouts.
  • Consider hiding containers in an unobtrusive place or behind a structure, screen and/or plants.
  • Because smaller cisterns are easy to handle and camouflage, place several of them around the site to be irrigated.
  • For large landscaped areas, connect several tanks to increase storage capacity.
  • If rainfall exceeds storage capacity, provide alternative storage for the excess or direct it to overflow in a safe manner, away from your foundation

There are also other ways to increase water efficiency and help your rainwater go further! Avoid giving your plants more water than they need. Check and maintain soil moisture with a soil moisture probe and do not water either directly after or before a rainfall event is expected. Only use your supplemental water during the time in between rain events, watering deeply and infrequently to encourage deeper rooting.

Plant Properly: Digging your hole 2-3 times the root mass and just as deep (or slightly above) the soil line in its container aids in establishment. Newly planted material will need more frequent irrigation until it is established. Gradually taper off watering as plants mature to encourage drought tolerance.

Utilize Compost: Incorporating and or topdressing with compost helps increase water infiltration and increases the soils ability to hold water during times without rainfall.

Mulch! 2-4 inches of your favorite mulch prevents evaporation (or water loss through the soil), helps with infiltration, and prevents weeds which have the potential to compete with your plants for water.

Water the Roots: Watering closer to your plant’s root zone by utilizing soaker hose or drip irrigation will increase the effectiveness of the irrigation and reduce evaporation. Adhere to manufacturers specifications for proper distribution.

Rainwater Quality

  • Salt free
  • Chlorine free
  • Calcium Free
  • Lime Free
  • pH slightly below 7
  • As clean as filtered going in and filtered going out

Where to Use Harvested Rainwater

  • Landscape irrigation
  • Foundation watering
  • Houseplants
  • Pond
  • Pool
  • Aquariums
  • Terrarium
  • Birdbath
  • Pets’ water bowl
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