All About Rain Barrels – Project Clean Water

All About Rain Barrels

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Did you know you can “harvest” rainwater? In fact, harvesting rainwater helps conserve water and protect our waterways from stormwater pollution.

Rain-Saving ContainersOne way you can harvest rainwater is with a rain barrel. When connected to a roof downspout, a rain barrel can capture and store roof runoff that can then be used for gardening and other non-potable water use. Rain barrels are inexpensive, easy to install, and a great way to protect natural resources.

One inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square-foot roof has the potential to harvest 600 gallons of water. Although Southern California is famous for endless sunshine and beautiful weather, the average annual rainfall in San Diego still totals up to 9.9 inches per year on the coast and in excess of 40 inches per year in the inland mountains – which means plenty of potential water to capture in rain barrels!

By implementing a rain barrel system, you can:

  • Reduce water pollution from rainwater runoff which carries pesticides, fertilizers, sediment, oil, and trash into local rivers and lakes
  • Reduce soil erosion and improve the ability of water to infiltrate the soil at a reduced intensity
  • Reduce dependency on the municipal water supply and see a cost savings on your water bill
  • Treat your garden, plants, and lawn to clean and free rainwater and help save energy by reducing demand on our drinking water supply

With proper installation and maintenance, your rain barrel will last many years and provide free clean water for your yard or garden.

Tips for Installation:

    • Place your rain barrel on a flat and level platform (such as cinder blocks) to make draining the barrel easier. Remember that without a pump, water flows to the spigot by gravity.
  • To help limit algae growth, create shade for the barrel by building a cover, wrapping the barrel with mesh and planting a native crawling vine nearby such as black berry or honey suckle, or painting the barrel an opaque color.
  • Regularly check the downspout diverter and remove any debris. Review your product specifications and installation sheet for further guidance and information.

Tips for Maintenance:

  • Clean out your rain barrel once a year. Depending on how much direct sun it receives, it may grow some algae and there may be some sediments from your roof that make it into the barrel.
  • Make sure the rain barrel remains securely screened/sealed to prevent mosquitoes.

Regional Rebate Program

Rain barrel rebates may be available through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. To see if you qualify, visit

If you live in an incorporated area, please check with your local jurisdiction for rebates that may be available to you. If you live in an unincorporated area, check out the County of San Diego’s Rain-Saving Rebates.