University of Kentucky College of Agriculture


Rain Barrels

A rain barrel is a simple and inexpensive means of conserving fresh water by collecting and storing rainwater from rooftops for use during drier periods. Though water collected in rain barrels is non-potable—not suitable for drinking— it can be used in a variety of ways around your home.


Building a Rain Barrel Publication (UK CES HENV-201)

DIY - Building a Rain Barrel From a Pickle Barrel


General Rain Barrel Tips

Make sure your barrel is installed on a solid and level base when in use.  Full barrels can weigh 400 pounds or more.

Water from a rain barrel is not potable, and should only be used for irrigation purposes. When irrigating a vegetable garden from a rain barrel, direct the water to the soil, not to the foliage of plants, and insure the produce from the garden is washed thoroughly before being consumed.

If you have a transparent or translucent barrel, you may want to clean it periodically to remove algae buildup.  Alternatively, paint the barrel to block light.

Always keep your rain barrels covered to prevent children, pets and vermin from falling in, and to keep your rain barrel from becoming a mosquito breeding site.

When in use, arrange the overflow downspout so that it drains away from your structure’s foundation


Winter Maintenance Tips

In order to maintain your rain barrels over many growing seasons, it is important to take a few maintenance steps prior to winter to keep your barrels functioning property. 

Drain your rain barrel before the first hard frost or freeze.  Repeated freezing and thawing of water in your rain barrel throughout the winter can weaken the material and cause cracks resulting in leakage. 

If you have an above-ground hose such as a water hose or soaker hose connected to your rain barrel, also remove the hose and drain the water from it before storing.

Store your rain barrels upside-down to keep them clean when not in use.



ENRI ● University of Kentucky ● N122 Agricultural Science North ● Lexington, KY 40546
Phone: (859) 257-2505 ● Fax: (859) 323-1991

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