Rain Barrels

Did you know lawn and garden watering can account for as much as 40 percent of household water use during the summer?

The Kalamazoo River Watershed Council promotes rain barrels as an excellent way to collect and reuse water.

Kalamazoo River Watershed Council rain barrelsA rain barrel is a simple vessel used to capture and store rain water that typically runs off your roof during a storm. Rain barrels are an easy way to harvest the rain water that normally runs into the streets and down the storm drain. All that rain water rushes into the nearest lake or stream without being filtered. Large volumes of rain runoff can erode stream channels, harm aquatic wildlife, and overdose waterways with large amounts of nutrients that can cause harmful algae blooms.

Once harvested, the water can be used to water gardens during dry periods. We’ll help walk you though some important decisions before buying and installing a rain barrel.

Rain Barrel Guide

When deciding whether a rain barrel will work at your home, ask yourself two important questions:

  • Does my home, garage, or shed have a gutter and downspout?
  • Can I use the water collected in the barrel?

A rain barrel must be placed under your downspout, which most often requires you cut the downspout just a few inches higher than the height of your barrel.

You’ll need to keep in mind that the barrel must be emptied regularly between rainfall, so either plan to water a lawn or garden nearby or add an overflow hose to keep water from over-topping the barrel.

vOne half inch of rainfall on a 12 foot by 12 foot section of roof will almost fill your 55-gallon barrel.  If you’re collecting water from an area larger than this, you’ll need to connect a second rain barrel and/or plan for an overflow option.

The barrels are equipped with both fittings, meaning you can attach a hose between two barrels and use a second hose to direct water away from your home in case of a larger storm or larger roof.

Use this table for reference when planning the number of barrels you will need.

Watch this video for instructions.

Many local home and garden retailers or hardware stores have rain barrels in stock during spring and summer months.  These barrels are fully assembled and only require minimal installation work at your home.  Many stores offer models with a decorative appeal, often plastic modeled to look like wooden or terra cotta clay barrels.  Check out these attractive rain barrel options on Houzz.com.

Want an affordable option?

The Kalamazoo River Watershed Council organizes a community rain barrel sale each spring.  The barrels are manufactured in the mid-west from recycled food grade plastic barrels (that would otherwise go to the landfill).  They are outfitted with all the fixtures and screw-on lide ready to be installed at your home.  This “upcycled” rain barrel allows us to keep the price low (usually around $60 or less), meaning more rain barrels installed in our watershed to collect rain water.

Select from four color choices (terra cotta red, blue, grey, and black). These plastic, 55-gallon barrels are made from recycled food grade barrels and come with a screw top with 1″ holes, screen mesh, overflow male hose connection, drain/spigot valve, and connection to attach additional barrels.

The barrel size is approximately 40″ H x 20″ diameter. These barrels are re-purposed from various foods, so size can vary slightly.  Don’t cut into your downspout until you get your barrel home and decide whether or not to place it on a stand.

Terra cotta and grey barrels were the most popular at our last sale.  The blue barrels are a bright, almost electric blue.  Black barrels seemed to show the most scuff marks, but can be greatly lessened by applying some car wax.

With some basic tools and some fittings from the local hardware store, you can turn any food-grade barrel into a rain barrel.  There are many resources and instructions available online.  Check out the handy instructions from the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (pdf) or check out the video below.


You should never drink water from your rain barrel.

Remember that an overflowing barrel can cause flooding near your foundation, always plan for overflows during large storms by connecting a hose to the existing valve and directing it away from buildings.

Empty your barrel and open all valves for winter storage outside.  If the barrel fills with water and freezes, the barrel may split, voiding the warranty.

If you have more questions, please visit Upcycle Products’ FAQ page.

You may also view and download our printer-friendly Rain Barrel Buyers’ Guide (PDF) to help you decide if a rain barrel is right for your property.

Join us at an event this summer! We’re teaming up with local community college students on a community art exhibit with painted rain barrels, just like the one’s offered through our rain barrel sale. The Rain Barrel Roadshow will be on display at art and environmental festivals in Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties this summer and the public will have the chance to vote on the winning design. Schedule coming soon!

Explore the various ways to support the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council today!