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City of Lincoln
Watershed Management: Education

Rain Barrels

City of Lincoln Watershed Management Division Rain Barrel
Painted by: Heather Bennett, professional fiber artist and City of Lincoln graphic artist.

What are they?

A rain barrel is any above ground container modified to receive, store, and distribute rooftop runoff for non-drinking uses. The typical size of a rain barrel is 55 gallons. The main components of a rain barrel are a connection to the downspout, a filter to prevent mosquitoes from entering, a faucet to allow for regulated usage, and an overflow pipe to divert the excess water.

What are the benefits of rain barrels?

How can the water collected be used?

The rainwater collected can be used to water lawns and gardens or wash cars and bicycles. Rainwater collected within the barrel is safe for plants because the typical minerals and pollutants trapped in the rainwater are filtered out by plant roots. Rainwater collected in the rain barrel is not for drinking; rainwater is more acidic than tap water and may contain particulate matter from air pollution.

How much do they cost?

Rain barrels cost anywhere from $20 to $300. The fancier the rain barrel, the more the cost. Costs can be reduced if the barrel is installed by the homeowner. In the summer, lawn and garden watering account for 40% of average household water usage. By adding a rain barrel, the need for municipal water is reduced. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, a rain barrel can potentially save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months.

Are there different colors, designs, and types of rain barrels?

Rain barrels come in essentially any design or style. However, most regular rain barrels are usually black or blue plastic. Since only a inch rainfall on a 160 square foot roof will fill a 55 gallon rain barrel, some people choose to get a tandem barrel (2 barrels at 1 downspout) or another barrel at a different downspout.

What type of maintenance is required?

The barrel will require periodic cleaning. A safe cleaning solution is 2 teaspoons of castile soap and 2 teaspoons of vinegar per gallon of water or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice per gallon of water. In the winter, the barrel will need to be emptied and disconnected from the downspout.

Thinking of Installing a Rain Barrel? Let us know! We'd be interested in your comments, the success of your barrel, and pictures. Please send information to Ellen Wright, Watershed Management Division, Public Works and Utilities Department, 949 West Bond Street, Suite 200, Lincoln, NE 68521, 402-441-7075 or

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Lower Platte South Natural Resources District Watershed Management Divsion
Rain barrel display at City Hall.

Public Works and Utilities, Rain Barrel Display

555 South 10th Street
Suite 203
Lincoln, NE 68508

Next time you visit City Hall, please visit our Rain Barrel on display. This Rain Barrel is provided by Campbell's Nursery and Garden Center, where they can be purchased for $150.


Watershed Management: Education