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 put together the video below to show you the basics of installing and using a rainbarrel at home. You can find more rainbarrel-related videos on our YouTube channel.


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

Using Rainbarrels for Watering Your Yard and Garden (with Video) — MWMO Blog Post
Rain Barrels — lakesuperiorstreams.org
Rain Barrels — Minnesota Landscape Arboretum