HarvestH2o Online Community


Is it Time to Upgrade from Rain Barrels to Tanks?
by Doug Pushard

So, 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?

Illustrated below are two systems that will accomplish this transition with relative ease.

System I

Amy, 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.

This 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 tanks.

Amy 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 probably suffice.

Total approximate cost of the current installation is about $900, excluding labor.

List of Parts:
2 - 500 Gallon (1,895 liter) tanks
12 feet (3.6 meters) of 4" (10cm) PVC pipe
2 - PVC to hose

System II

In 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.

Total approximate cost of this installation about $1,000, excluding labor.

These 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!

Some 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 our listing.

If 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.

List of Parts:
1 - 600 Gallon (2,650 liter) tank
1- submersible pump
150 feet of 4" flex pipe
2 - Downspout boxes


Comparing Storage Alternatives
List of State and City Programs and Vendors
Additional Pictures


Advanced Search
Sign up for updates:




January 2013

Establishing Corporate Water Sustainability

The Water Footprint of Energy Independence

WEF Executive Director Briefs US Conference of Mayors Water Council on Water for Jobs Campaign

Balancing the Water-Energy Nexus

Attacking Apathy and Reducing Demand

New water lows for Great Lakes could drain local economies

As Texas Bakes in a Long Drought, Water Becomes a Focus for Legislators

The Policy of “Pumping the Recharge”
Is Out of Control

The Intelligent Use of Water™ Infographic

Attacking Apathy and Reducing Demand

December 2012

Mississippi River shutdown because of water levels

Pesticides: Now More Than Ever

Pesticides in Tap Water Linked to Food Allergies

November 2012

Disinfection Basics

EWG Calls on EPA to Set Lower Limit on Perchlorate in Water

Saving Water, Improving Energy Efficiency

The Problem Is Clear: The Water Is Filthy

Uranium Exposure Linked To Increased Lupus Rate

The Problem Is Clear: The Water Is Filthy

Preparing for a Blue Economy

Making Every Toilet Flush Count—Creating Electricity From Sewage

October 2012

Most Big Companies Hurt by Water Problems, CDP Survey Finds

September 2012

Shrinking water's hidden footprint

Sunshine Helps Bring Clean Drinking Water To Third World Countries

NC State Leads National Effort To Evaluate Fresh Water Sustainability In The Southern U.S.

August 2012

The Investment Drought

Wall Street Took Our Homes, Now Our Water

Quarter of World’s Freshwater Used to Grow Wasted Food

Post-Fire Watersheds and Corporate Water Scarcity

The challenge of water resource management in drought-stricken Texas

July 2012

Stanching Water Waste

Honoring historical Valley waters

June 2012

New Mexico Governor Issues Drought Declaration

Extreme irrigation threatens US food supply

May 2012

Waking Up to a Crisis

Water Scarcity and a Looming Energy Crisis

April 2012

Fees and Anger Rise in California Water War

The Price of Water: A Comparison of Water Rates, Usage in 30 U.S. Cities

Congressmen, Mayors Urge WH to Invest in Water: New Report

March 2012

Gibbs Holds Hearing To Review Financing Tools For Water Infrastructure

February 2012

Water Infrastructure Bill To Top $1 Trillion

January 2012

'Miracle Tree' Substance Produces Clean Drinking Water Inexpensively And Sustainably

Could Tap Water Cause Lou Gehrig's Disease?

Food vs. Water: High Commodity Prices

Ancient Droughts, Modern Dilemmas


Old Water News >>

PRIVACY: We will not sell, rent or share your name with anyone. see policy


1. How do you harvest rainwater?
2. Where do you get the water?
3. What is the best way of harvesting rain?
4. Why should I harvest rainwater?
5. Do I need pumps to harvest rainwater?
6. Can I use drip irrigation or soaker hoses with a rainwater?
7. How big a yard can I water?
8. How big are rain barrels?
9. I want more pressure, how should I raise it?
10. Can I water my grass with rainwater?

and many more>>



ABOUT US -|--FAQS -| -ARTICLES -| -RESOURCES -| - VENDORS |- NEWS-|- NEW PRODUCTS -| SERVICES Copyright © 1990-2021 HarvestH2o, All Rights Reserved 505-603-5498