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I've chosen to do a project proposal on my city providing citizens with inexpensive rain barrels to reduce runoff pollution and teach water management. For those of you who own rain barrels,

-What do you like/dislike about them?
-What issues arise in care and maintenance?
-Have you noticed any savings in your water bills?

Also, do you have any resources or suggestions for my project? I'm just starting, so any information you have is appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

Hello there Lizkorney

You don't say which city you are working in. Are you in Britain somewhere?As you can see from my forum name I have some of these things scatterd around in my garden, currently filling up nicely in this thunderstorm.To answer your points:

What do I like? they collect water for me to use that is neutral in Ph. unlike my garden which is alkaline mostly (I live on an interface between impervious volcanic layers and porous limestone). Anyway, that's what I like. What I don't like is that councils charge a fortune for their residents to buy one of these things and shops charge even more. They are just a glorified plastic bag for heavens sake. What I also dislike is the colour, shape and general tackiness of them and that goes for the ones that try to pretend that they are a Greek vase especially. I make my own from discarded black bins mostly. The black colour is easier to hide than that awful green.

What issues arise in care and maintenance? Well, I've learned that you can't put one under a felt roof - the runoff smell could kill at 50 paces. And you can't put one on a mini greenhouse as there isn' t enogh surface area of glass to collect even a cupful of rain in an downpour. One issue that arises constantly is that my husband drains the last from the waterbutt AND FORGETS TO TURN THE TAP OFF so the next time it rains I come along to find the thing EMPTY. If you have an idea about how I can solve that problem I'd love to hear it as I've tried everything that I know short of strangling him.

Have I noticed any savings in my water bills? Come on, you ARE kidding aren't you? How many gallons of water in a waterbutt? I dunno, maybe 100. It's only a bathful! How many waterbutts would it take to make a difference to my waterbill? I'd have no garden, just a great big pile of plastic barrels.


I have 6 waterbutts at home,im not yet on a water meter so no idea how much it will save. All the butts are empty now but i do try and save rainwater for the blueberries that i grow in big pots. Only problem i have had so far is the tap gatting blocked so when they are empty i give them all a good clean.You then need someonr with a log arm who can hold the tap steady on the inside whilst you screw it in from the outside. Definately a 2 person job. Each year i think where can i put another one.

My mums dog had a habit of turning the taps on and when you got out there all the water had gone. Never could stop her. Good luck


Could it be designed with a stronger and higher stand? The stands that come with them really can't support the weight of them when full. So many have buckled and I've had to empty and start again. As to the height some of my more elderly customers have a real job bending down so if a table specially designed...say a semicircle or a half a semicircle (if you get what I mean) fit under a barrel could be made it would make life a hell of a lot easier for some. And yes! the colour horrendous plastic shiny green. Something more muted not shiny that could be camouflaged better would be great! 

I echo the responses above but also have the added problem of the base on large butts splitting at the base - and all the water runs away...!  Smaller butts don't seem to have this problem but that means I have to have more of them. I recently invested in a proper oak cask, at vast expense. It looks good but I dare not empty it because it will need soaking all over again!


waterbutts wrote (see)

You don't say which city you are working in. Are you in Britain somewhere?

I'm from Wisconsin in the US, pretty far away from Britian I find it funny you call them waterbutts! I've never heard that! Thanks so much for your feedback! I hope you don't mind me using some direct quotes from this forum?


I use 2x 250 gallon IBCs on my allotment plot (it's basically a rented garden).  


  • When full they weigh a tonne each. They need substantial supports.
  • They let light in so algae grows.  I am going to box them in this year to prevent this.
  • They are perfect for mosquitoes to lay their eggs in.  Some people keep goldfish in their waterbutts to prevent this.


  • As above they are ph nuetral so better for plants
  • The temperature is closer to the ambient temperature as opposed to mains water - less likely to shock young/tender plants
  • No chlorine or flourides in the water - truly organic
  • Rain is abundant in Britian (although you wouldn't have realised over the past few weeks) and purifying water for plant use is a waste of energy.
  • I have recycled the IBCs so less waste.


Hello again Lizkorny

Yes, we do have our funny old English vocabulary still, though it's a hard battle to keep American English out of it. A butt in English English is an old word for a barrel, originally a barrel the Romans used for keeping wine in, derived from the Latin word buttis. However, we do understand the significance of the American meaning and my forum name takes that into account as well as reflecting my interest in organic gardening.

I re-read your post and was considering the last part of it. Have you visited or written to any manufacturers of plastic waterbutts and asked them about the carbon footprint involved in making one? I often wonder about the value of collecting water in such a heavily polluting product as unrecycled plastic.

Traditional Portuguese houses had what they called a cisterna built under them to catch water runoff from the house roof. Enormous great things like underground swimming pools. I dare say maybe traditional Mexican houses had something similar. so much more eco-friendly than plastic, so much cheaper to make, bigger and more long-lasting  too.

By all means quote from my post if you wish. Good luck.


I have 2x 120litre waterbutts on each side of the green house and one 240litre waterbutt collecting from the garage. I like mine because my greenhouse i'm not near the outside tap. so when im in the greenhouse ive got water right next to me. the one down side is if you let them get to empty and the wind picks up they are likely to blow over. (i've placed two bricks each in the bottom on mine), which always worries me the one's near the greenhouse. also i dont like the fact the taps are low on them ok to get the last of the water out of it. but then means you have to place the butts on stands.


Crikey, Farmergeddun, there's a website for everything, isn't there? Incredible!

waterbutts wrote (see)

Crikey, Farmergeddun, there's a website for everything, isn't there? Incredible!

I don't think there's anything you can't find on t'internet if you look hard enough 

If you asked the Mrs she would say that rainwater collection and irrigation systems are my latest favourite fad.  

We have had many, many issues surrounding water on our allotment site and I'm trying to become self-sufficient.  My plan is to have a drip feed system on the plot by next year so that if we ever have a weather spell like this one again (fingers and toes crossed) I can be sure that I won't run out of water.  Otherwise I have to be at the plot at stupid o'clock to fill one plastic drum every two hours due to the lack of water pressure.  Not to mention the availability of a tap and that people steal hozelock tap adapters.

The Leek man

some plastics go brittle out in sunlight and u end up turning up to a very wet garden when they crack on u. at this time of year u end up filling them with a hose rather than re-useing rain water but all in all a great idea as u can place them as close as u like to your plants meaning less walking back and forward with a watering can to your nearest tap. some councils will supply u with a butt for a small charge it may be worth u contacting them to find out some more stuff like prices and the number sent out in a year - showing you haw affective it has been in your local area. Good Luck and keep up the College work it pays of in the end


Hi Liz I have three water butts. I top up the small pond with most of the rain water, to prevent larve being laid in the butts I put a finely woven fabric over the open top securing it tightly before putting the lid on. If manufactures fitted or at least provided this fabric it would be helpful. Good luck with your project.



Hi Liz,

I have a 240 litre waterbutt collecting rain water from my shed and green house. I've had it for around 15 years and never had any major problems. The tap broke after a couple of days but the retailer replaced it for me free of charge. It's got a lid so blockages are seldom a problem but easily cleared with an old bottle cleaning brush tied securely to a cane 

The best thing about it is that I don't have to carry a full watering can the length of the garden. The worst thing is that the flow is lower than mains pressure water so the watering can takes longer to fill. At the time I installed it we were charged for water usage based on the rateable value of the property (we are on a meter now)so I can't say what difference it made to the bill but there is obviously a saving being made.

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