With the world population growing exponentially, we should all be doing our best to take advantage of the water resources we currently have available. Using a cistern or a rain barrel to collect rain and runoff water can not only lower your water bill, but it can also help keep your plants healthy and reduce runoff water on your property.

With many people considering purchasing rain barrels and cisterns from gutter specialists, one of the popular questions is what the actual difference is between the two tools. The main difference is size. Rain barrels are usually smaller and sub-grade mounted, whereas cisterns are bigger, and can be built above or below-grade. You can buy pre-made rain barrels and cisterns from various sources but you can also make your own. You can do a quick Google search to find how-to videos with instructions to create your own rain barrel. You can find instructions on painting the barrels as well.

When picking a barrel to use, you should be sure to use a food-grade, high-quality barrel. It will work best if there is a faucet at the bottom of the barrel, but if the barrel you choose does not already have one, you can install your own from your local hardware store. A simple Google search will help with instructions to do this as well. A screened opening will also be created to allow the water to reach the barrel from the downspout, thus helping to keep out debris and mosquitoes. Because you are putting the faucet at the bottom of the barrel, you will probably need to elevate the barrel slightly to improve water flow and increase access to the water coming out of the faucet. A few bricks or pieces of wood should work fine. Check to make sure the base is stable and level after elevating it because when the rain barrel is full, it will be very heavy. This will make it difficult to move and it could also be a safety hazard if it is not secured and falls. You may just want to secure the barrel in position so it can’t tip over. When your rain barrel has been mounted, the overflow pipe should be taken to ground level and placed to channel water away from your foundation.

It is important to take careful consideration when choosing the size of the system you are installing. It is fairly easy to calculate which size you will need. For roughly every one-hundred square feet of roof area, one inch of rainfall will create about 62 gallons of water. Do a little research on the average rainfall in your area and this should give you a good idea of what size rain barrel you will need. If you cannot find a barrel big enough to suit your needs, you can always use multiple barrels and link them together. While sealing the connections can be tricky, there are numerous videos and tutorials on the internet that explain the best ways to link rain barrels together.