it Time to Upgrade from Rain Barrels to Tanks?
by Doug Pushard
you're catching rainwater into barrels, helping the environment,
and saving a bit of money on your monthly water bill as an added
bonus. Great idea. But when do you make the decision to take the
leap, i.e., upgrade to bigger tanks, and maximize on your bounty?
And how do you go about it without busting the bank and creating
yet another huge project?
below are two systems that will accomplish this transition with
a long-time Santa Fe resident, has two 500-gallon (1,895 liter)
tanks that are gravity fed from the roof linked together with
PVC connectors to maintain equilibrium in tanks. Both tanks have
a standard hose spigots attached to the bottom of it for watering
the yard. No pump is necessary.
system is an easy upgrade for anyone with space for a tank next
to the house and where a majority of the rainwater falls from
the roof in one location. In some cases, it is possible to simply
replace the existing rain barrels with larger rainwater catchment
installed two tanks to insure she had enough water for irrigating
her one-acre yard. In Santa Fe, where the annual rainfall is about
14 inches (35 centimeters), she rarely runs out of water to irrigate
her yard since the tanks were installed. She harvests the rain
from only the west side of her house and the garage roof (i.e.
about 800 square feet or 75 square meters). She is currently looking
into expanding her water catchment to the west side of the house,
by replacing two more of her rain barrels with two larger tanks.
For most small yards, a single 500-gallon (1,895 liter) tank would
approximate cost of the current installation is about $900, excluding
2 - 500 Gallon (1,895 liter) tanks
12 feet (3.6 meters) of 4" (10cm) PVC pipe
2 - PVC to hose
some situations, an underground tank is a better option. Deborah
has a small yard and a tank would have taken up extremely valuable
yard space. So in xeriscaping her yard, she installed underground
4" (10 centimeter) flex pipes that connected to her existing
downspouts. Screens installed at the bottom of her downspouts
filter out most of the larger debris. The underground pipes slope
to the middle of her yard from both sides of her house and are
joined with a simple PVC Wye connector. They then enter into the
underground 600-gallon (2,650 liter) tank. Installed in her tank
is a standard submersible pump that feeds her drip irrigation
system. It is wired to a nearby electrical box and she manually
plugs it in to turn on the pump to irrigate her yard.
approximate cost of this installation about $1,000, excluding
two installations demonstrate the simplicity of upgrading from
rain barrels to tanks and how to do so cost-effectively. Both
systems can be continually upgraded with other electronic conveniences,
but for now, both Amy and Deborah are capturing more rainwater,
saving money on their monthly water bill, and literally preventing
rainwater from going down the drain!
cities and states offer incentive programs that can be used to
offset the costs of the tanks, so be sure to check with your local
water company. If your city does offer a program and it is not
listed on our site, please send us an email so we can add it to
your budget doesn't allow for tanks, you can link multiple rain
barrels together. This offers expanded storage while not incurring
the cost of a larger tank.
- 600 Gallon (2,650 liter) tank
1- submersible pump
150 feet of 4" flex pipe
2 - Downspout boxes
List of State
and City Programs and Vendors