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City of Port Washington, Wisconsin

City of Port Washington - Tips For Going Green

Home Rain Barrels

Do you have a garden that uses a lot of water, or are you sick of paying to water your garden? Then you should consider installing a rain barrel at your home! What is a rain barrel? A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams.

Lawn and garden watering make up nearly 40% of total household water use during the summer. A rain barrel collects water and stores it for when you need it most -- during periods of drought - to water plants, wash your car, or to top off a swimming pool.

Saving water not only helps protect the environment by reducing erosion from turbulent storm water runoff and water pollution, but it also saves you money and energy (decreased demand for treated tap water) and is one of the easiest and most cost effective methods of helping our planet. It provides an ample supply of free "soft water" to homeowners, containing no chlorine, lime or calcium making it ideal for gardens, flower pots, and car and window washing.

There are many ways to go about getting and setting up a rain barrel at your home. You can purchase a rain barrel from your favorite local hardware store or make it yourself. You will then need to decide whether you want to connect it to your home or have it stand in an open area. Attaching it to your house will require a little bit more construction but you will get more water especially if you have a large area of roof that drains into your rain barrel.


So Let's Get Started!
If you want to get water from a downspout, you will need to position the rain barrel near the downspout. If you don't have downspouts, you can still use a rain barrel. Find a trough in your roofline where two parts of the roof come together and water pours out whenever it rains. Place the rain barrel under one of those spots, and you'll get plenty of water. Make sure you place it on level and stable ground. When your rain barrel is at maximum capacity, it will weigh quite a bit and tipping is a risk on unlevel ground.


Using A Rain Barrel
Even though rainwater is natural, it isn't safe for drinking unless it's been filtered and treated. Rainwater washing off your roof is carrying pollution with it. This includes particulates from car exhaust and manufacturing smoke stacks, not to mention bird droppings and parts of dead bugs. It's still great water, though - plants love it.

When watering your veggies with rainwater, keep the water flow at ground level, away from the stuff you'll actually be eating, and don't use rainwater within a couple of days of harvesting your crop. After harvesting, always wash your vegetables thoroughly with tap water.

Exposing rainwater to sunlight and open air will encourage algae growth. Make sure the screen is secure to keep out water-loving bugs, like mosquitoes. Clean the filter regularly, and inspect your rain barrel every once in a while for leaks. Keep your roof gutters clean and make sure that water is flowing freely to and through the downspout when it rains. Don't forget to move your rain barrel in the winter to a safe location so it doesn't freeze and crack. NEVER use a barrel that previously contained anything toxic or even questionable. There are plenty of used food-material barrels if you look hard enough. Be careful if you are converting a garbage can into a rain barrel as not all can hold up to the pressure of a large amount of water.

If you are thinking of building your own rain barrel but are unsure of where to get a blue barrel, check these out:

  • Craigslist
  • Food manufacturers
  • Grocery stores
  • Farms that get feed for animals
  • Carwashes that use biodegradable soap
  • Hardware stores

Build Your Own Rain Barrel Instructions

Tools Needed

  • Drill
  • Inch hole saw for overflow pipe
  • One-inch spade bit for spigot
  • Tin snips or heavy-duty scissors for cutting screen
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Utility knife
  • Safety glasses

Tools Needed For Disconnecting Downspout

  • Hacksaw
  • Drill
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver or nut driver
  • Pliers or crimpers

Materials Needed

  • One 55 to 90-gallon food grade plastic barrel
  • Hose spigot with 3/4 inch threaded inlet and 3/4 inch male hose end
  • Two 3/4 inch galvanized locknuts to secure spigot from the inside of the barrel
  • Four 1-inch (opening) washers to provide rigid surface to fasten hose bib
  • Teflon tape
  • Silicon adhesive or outdoor caulking
  • Two 8"x 8" x 12" concrete or wooden blocks
  • Window screen mesh (enough to cover the barrel opening)
  • Downspout elbow to route the downspout to the barrel
  • Clincher strap (attaches downspout and barrel to house)
  • Small pieces of wood blocking to use behind clincher strap (if necessary)
  • Any additional materials necessary for the overflow location
  • 1/4" #6 sheet metal screws for downspout
  • 3/4" screws for clincher strap
  • 2" overflow pipe fittings

Create an opening with fine screening through which the rain barrel will collect water from the downspout elbow. This can be a single screened opening large enough to accommodate the downspout elbow, or a series of smaller screened openings directly in the top of the barrel.

Drill a hole near the top of the barrel to accommodate an overflow pipe that is at least 2 inches in diameter. If the overflow pipe elbow seals and seats securely, it can be threaded directly into the barrel opening. If not, it should be secured with washers on both sides of the barrel and a nut on the inside. Use Teflon tape around the threads and a bead of silicon caulking around the opening to ensure a tight seal.

Drill a hole near the bottom of the empty barrel to attach the drain spigot. If the spigot seals and seats securely, it can be threaded directly into the barrel opening. If not, it should be secured with washers on both sides of the barrel and a nut on the inside. Use Teflon tape around the threads and a bead of silicon caulking around the opening to ensure a tight seal.

Cut the downspout with a hacksaw so that the elbow will sit just above the rain barrel inlet. Attach the elbow over the downspout with a screw and secure the downspout to the house with the strap. Set up the barrel beneath the elbow and secure the barrel to the house with a strap (optional). Cut and attach the overflow pipe to the overflow elbow and direct to the existing discharge location.

Now all that is needed is a good rain!


  1. Wipe down the barrel with a one-to-one mixture of vinegar and water
  2. Rough the surface of the barrel with a piece of fine grit sand paper
  3. Apply a coat of latex bonding primer
  4. Paint your design with "exterior latex paint"


City of Port Washington Going Green Links At A Glance


Home Depot




Better Homes & Gardens

Mother Earth News

Young House Love


City of Port Washington, Wisconsin Official You Tube Channel