Soak Up the Rain: Rain Barrels

Rain barrels capture water from a roof and hold it for later use such as on lawns, gardens or indoor plants. Collecting roof runoff in rain barrels reduces the amount of water that flows from your property. It's a great way to conserve water and it's free water for use in your landscape. Many cities and towns distribute rain barrels to residents through annual sales. Other sources include online retailers, local home and garden supply stores. Cisterns are also used to "harvest" rain water. With a greater storage capacity they may be located above or below ground.

Rainwater Harvesting, U.S. EPA Green Infrastructure

Note: Remember that as rain water flows over a roof surface it can pick up pollutants such as bacteria from birds and other animals, and chemicals from roof materials - factors to consider when thinking about using rain barrel water on edible plantings. Some links with information and suggestions are included below:

Information About Rain Barrels

Local resources


A Resident's Guide to Rain Barrels in Connecticut, Rainfall as a Resource, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (PDF) (2 pp, 524 K, about PDF) Exit
Fact sheet describes the benefits of using a rain barrel; how to install and maintain a rain barrel; and answers to some frequently asked questions.

Rain Barrels, Reduce, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Save the Sound Exit
Basic information about rain barrels and cisterns; links to some sources and a series of product reviews of different rain barrel styles.

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Maine Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Exit
Volume III, Chapter 10 includes information about rain barrels.

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Rain Barrels and Other Water Conservation Tools, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Exit
Why rain barrels are important; how to install; how to make; and where to obtain a manufactured rain barrel.

Rain Barrels and Cisterns, Clean Water Toolkit, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Exit
Fact sheet describes these water harvesting practices, including their benefits and use, maintenance and other considerations.

Cisterns and Rain Barrels Fact Sheet, Massachusetts Low Impact Development Toolkit, Metropolitan Area Planning Council Exit
Information about use, effectiveness, limitations, maintenance and other considerations

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New Hampshire

Rain Barrel Do-it-Yourself Fact Sheet, New Hampshire Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater Management, Do-It-Yourself Stormwater Solutions For Your Home, Soak Up the Rain New Hampshire, March 2016 (PDF) (66 pp, 4 MB, about PDF) Exit
Refer to page 32 for the Rain Barrel fact sheet with information about placing, installing, and using a rain barrel.

A Shoreland Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater Management (PDF) (16 pp, 1.4 MB, about PDF) Exit
Guide describes practices, including rain barrels, that shoreland homeowners can use to reduce or prevent polluted stormwater runoff from their roofs, patios, lawns and driveways.

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Rhode Island

Rain Barrels, Rhode Island Stormwater Solutions, University of Rhode Island Exit

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Capture & Reuse – Rain barrels and Cisterns, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Exit
Basic information along with some photos and illustrations

Absorb the Storm - Create a Rain-friendly Yard and Neighborhood, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, University of Vermont Cooperative Extension (PDF) (24 pp, 2.5 MB, about PDF) Exit
Discusses a number of steps homeowners can take, including rain barrels, to help prevent the problems associated with runoff.

Vermont Low Impact Development Guide for Residential and Small Sites, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (PDF) (54 pp, 4.7 MB, about PDF) Exit
Includes instructions on how to install and maintain rain barrels. Shows design guidance for double rain barrel set up.

South Burlington Stormwater Utility Low Impact Development Guidance Manual, 2009 (PDF) (78 pp, 4.7 MB, about PDF) Exit
Guidance includes an introduction to rain barrels.

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