How to Manage a Backyard Rain Barrel


Harvesting rainwater in your backyard offers a ton of benefits. Rain barrels cost as little as $30, and this easy home improvement is a great way to add some value to your backyard.

Simply put, a rain barrel will harvest runoff from your roof or gutter system. Typically, they’re placed right against your house, with a diversion hose or gutter running into them. This simple system can save you a ton of money.

On average, a rain barrel used to water gardens and lawns reduces household water consumption by 1,300 gallons a season, resulting in a much lower water bill. Harvested water is also better for your lawn and garden because it doesn’t contain the salt and other chemicals found in treated water.

The most important thing to do when you install a rain barrel is to make sure it has a sturdy and secure top. This helps keep mosquitos out, as well as small children and pets. It will also prevent random debris that washes off your roof or is blown around in your yard from falling into your harvested water.

Make sure to install screens on all openings. They help prevent mosquitos from colonizing the barrel and help act as a second barrier for debris. Your spigot and lid should be screened, along with any other openings you may have.

As well, check local laws on stormwater harvesting with State Rainwater Harvesting and Graywater Laws and Programs. Some regions encourage stormwater management, and in other areas, it’s strictly forbidden. Make sure you know your local laws.

If your barrel starts to get dirty, or the water gets murky, get goldfish! They’ll help by eating the algae and mosquito larvae that can build up in a rain barrel. Just make sure to keep them as pets after they’re done working, and make sure to keep an eye on them, as they can grow rapidly and might need to be re-homed.

Remember that all water from your rain barrel should be considered non-potable. It’s not a bad idea to even label your rain barrel as non-potable water. Water must be filtered before being consumed so it’s best to have a constant reminder that your rain barrel is not a source of drinkable water.

Lastly, don’t let kids or pets play near your rain barrel. To ensure a consistent water flow, your rain barrel needs to be a couple of feet off the ground. A 55-gallon barrel weighs 450 pounds when full. Make sure to securely mount it and to keep kids and pets away if there’s a risk of it falling over.

Rain barrels are a low-cost way to improve the health of your landscape and save some money on your water bill. Certain localities even offer credits on utility bills for responsible storm water management. Ready to get started? Shop rain barrels here.