Rainbarrels are containers for collecting rainwater from rooftops. They allow you to save your stormwater runoff so that you can use it for things like irrigating landscaping plants. Using rainbarrels helps reduce amount of potable water needed for watering plants. It also adds capacity to city stormsewer systems by capturing part of the first flush of a rain event.

Rainbarrels come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your needs. You can buy a pre-made rainbarrel from your local home improvement center, or you can buy an inexpensive, do-it-yourself conversion kit to turn a recycled plastic drum or other containers into a rainbarrel. These kits typically include the parts you need to connect the rainbarrel to your gutter downspout. You can also connect rainbarrels in a series to increase storage capacity. Ideally, rainbarrels should be emptied between rain events so that they are able to capture runoff from the next storm.

We’ve put together this video playlist to show you the basics of building and installing rainbarrels. You can also find it on our YouTube channel.

*Note: The MWMO does not endorse specific products or companies. All videos are selected for their educational value only.


Cisterns are similar to rainbarrels, but are typically much larger, and can be either above-ground or underground. Cisterns are the oldest form of rainwater collection and can be built to a variety of scales. For example, the MWMO has a 4,000-gallon cistern in front of our Stormwater Park and Learning Center, while Thomas Edison High School’s underground cistern can hold up to 110,000 gallons for irrigating its athletic field.

Learn More

Rain Barrels — lakesuperiorstreams.org
Rain Barrels — Minnesota Landscape Arboretum