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Overflow Action Alert

The MWRD has issued an Overflow Action Day alert. Please limit water usage to absolute necessities. Visit our Overflow Action page for more information.

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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Reduce flooding and save water for later use

Rain barrels capture rainwater from your roof and save it for later use. Rain barrels can help prevent basement backups, street flooding and sewer overflows by keeping rainwater out of the sewer system.

You can use rain barrel water to:

  • Wash your car
  • Water your lawn or garden
  • Clean work boots, tools and bikes

Rain barrel water is naturally free of chlorine, lime, and calcium and some gardeners swear their plants prefer it! 

A rain barrel on a wooden stand next to a house with a hose running to a tree

Rain Barrels are available for delivery to Cook County residents for $43.00 each.

Four blue rain barrels

   
Delivery included!
Limit: 2 per household  

  
Order a Rain Barrel

About our rain barrels

Our rain barrels weigh 20 pounds when empty and can hold up to 55 gallons. When full of water, the barrel weighs about 500 pounds. The overflow opening lets you connect a hose to direct overflow away from your foundation or to connect several rain barrels. Our rain barrels:  

  • Are approximately 23 inches wide and 38 inches tall.
  • Are made from durable high-density polyethylene.
  • Come in four colors (black, blue, terra cotta and gray) and may have different shapes depending on the vendor.
  • Include instructions, a leaf and mosquito filter screen, a flexible downspout connector, a spigot/tap, and an overflow hose.
MWRD Rain Barrels

 

Upcycled and green

Our rain barrels are upcycled food-grade barrels initially used to transport and store food, but there is no sign of that anymore. The rain barrels are thoroughly cleaned with high-pressure water in an industrial wash system. No cleaners or detergents are used that could change their food grade status. Any contents that may be left over, including the wash water, are all food grade, biodegradable and considered a nutrient for the soil. 
 

Designed to overflow

Your rain barrel is meant to overflow when it is full. Water will spill from the opening on the top through the overflow opening or overflow valve.   

Connect a hose to the overflow opening or valve to direct the water away from your house. You can connect a second rain barrel to the first using the included connecting hose and double the water captured before it overflows.

Check on your rain barrel when it is raining to make sure the overflow is not causing flooding or flowing into your neighbor’s property. If your rain barrel is installed correctly on a surface that can absorb water, then overflow water should soak into the ground. 

If you see puddles of water on your property, consider installing a rain garden, a type of landscaping designed to absorb water. 
 


 

How to install your rain barrel

Required tools: Hacksaw, tape measure, goggles, gloves, pen or pencil   
Recommended materials: 7'–10' garden hose, concrete blocks or pressure-treated wood

1

Place the Barrel

Rain barrels must be located near a downspout and on level, pervious (water-absorbing; not paved) ground. Your rain barrel will overflow during heavy rain. Be sure you can direct overflow to pervious ground and away from your (and your neighbor’s) home.
  

Placing your rain barrel on a stable platform will help increase water pressure and make it easier to use a watering can or bucket. Concrete blocks or pressure-treated wood work well for platforms. A full rain barrel weighs approximately 500 pounds, so ensure the platform is sturdy!
  

If you have a favorite watering can, adjust your platform to make sure it will fit comfortably under the spigot.

2

Measure and Cut

Once your rain barrel is in place, position the flexible elbow (included with your rain barrel) on the barrel and next to the downspout to determine where to cut. The elbow should be aimed at the screened opening on the top of the rain barrel, and the downspout must be inserted about 2" into the elbow. For most installations, it works well to cut the downspout about 8" above the top of the barrel. 
  

Remember that the downspout must be inserted a couple of inches into the connecting elbow. Mark the downspout with a pen or pencil where you will be cutting it. 
  

Once you know where to cut, put on your safety goggles and gloves and cut the downspout with a hacksaw. Keep the cut portion of the downspout so that it may be reconnected when the rain barrel is winterized.

3

Connect

Connect the flexible elbow to the cut downspout by inserting the downspout into the elbow and positioning it so water will flow into your rain barrel. Connect a garden hose to the overflow fitting and direct it away from your house. Depending on the location of your rain barrel and your yard, this hose may need to be at least 7'–10' long. 
 

Cap off the old downspout location on the ground to prevent it from becoming an animal’s nest or clogged with debris. 
 

Diagram of a rain barrel showing to cut the downspout usually about 8" above rain barrel and ensure the sturdy platform under the rain barrel is placed on level, pervious, water-absorbing ground
Diagram of a rain barrel showing the flexible connecting elbow in position, with a downspout inserted about 2" into the elbow and directed toward the screened opening of the rain barrel and an overflow hose directed away from the house


 

Prepare your Rain Barrel for Winter

Before the winter’s first frost hits, it’s time to ensure your rain barrel is ready to weather chilly winds and changing temperatures all season. Follow these steps to protect your investment and be ready to utilize spring rains for your garden, flowers, and lawn!

Disconnect and Clean

Empty the rain barrel completely to avoid cracks and leaks caused by freezing water as it expands. Even a small amount of ice can lead to a cracked rain barrel. Unhook hoses, the spigot, and downspouts to prevent damage. Apply olive oil to the spigot’s ball valve. To prevent melted snow from getting into the barrel during freeze-thaw cycles, reattach the section of downspout that was cut off during installation. Make sure the water flows away from your foundation and your neighbor’s property. If you don’t have this part anymore, you might want to install a downspout diverter designed for winter use. Clean the barrel to remove dirt or leaves that could block it. Ensure the lid and screen are securely closed.

Store and Protect

Think about putting the barrel in a basement, garage, or under a deck. If you choose to store it outside, either flip it upside down or on its side to stop water from getting in. If the barrel is on the ground, raise it a bit to prevent it from freezing to the surface. Make sure the barrel is firmly secured because strong winds might make an empty rain barrel roll away. If you want, you can add an extra layer of protection against the cold by wrapping your barrel with insulating material or bubble wrap.

Plan for Spring

During winter, check the barrel from time to time for any cracks, leaks, or problems. If you find any issues, fix them quickly to avoid more damage. When winter is almost over and the chance of frost is gone, reconnect the rain barrel and get it ready for the upcoming rainy season.

 


More information

MWRD Rain Barrel installation instructions from the manufacturer

Product Installation, Maintenance and Warranty  
dual-language flyer

English + Spanish

This flyer provides installation instructions, operating instructions, maintenance, warranty, cautions and disclaimers from the manufacturer.

Rain Barrels Brochure

Rain Barrels         
tri-fold brochure         
English   •   Español  •   Polski

This brochure explains how to order and use rain barrels to help with water conservation and reduce your water bill. Using rain barrels reduces the flow of rainwater from your property into local sewer systems.

 

Warranty

For technical and warranty information, please see the below contact information.

An rain barrel installed at a Chicago home

For round barrels, 
visit rainbarrel.ca or 
call toll-free 844-422-7735.

A row of squared-off rain barrels on a snowy permeable paver parking lot

For squared-off barrels, 
visit enviroworld.us or 
call toll-free 877-634-9777.

 
Disclaimer

With proper installation, maintenance and use, your rain barrel should function properly.

The MWRD assumes no liability for the installation, maintenance or use of your rain barrel. We are not responsible for any rain barrel malfunction, property damage or injury associated with your rain barrel malfunction, or property damage or injury associated with your rain barrel, its accessories or contents.

For more information, contact the Office of Public Affairs at 312-751-6633 or public.affairs@mwrd.org.