Rain barrels for the river

Rain barrel attached to gutter, painted with flowers

Rain barrels are a great way to improve water quality and conserve water. (Photo by Paul Watercott for FMR)

What's a rain barrel?

Rain barrels collect the rain that runs off a roof through gutters so you can use it later to water your garden or lawn. They also prevent runoff — and the pollution it carries — from entering already-taxed stormwater systems. As climate change intensifies rainfalls in Minnesota, it's even more important to capture that rain where it lands.

But even as annual precipitation levels climb, we'll have plenty of dry spells when rainwater harvest comes in handy. Outdoor irrigation makes up 35% of a single-family home's water use, so a rain barrel can also help you conserve water.

What you can do

There are several options for rain barrels: DIY (do-it-yourself), ready-made or in-between — build your own rain barrel in a guided workshop.

DIY rain barrels

Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District provides a comprehensive booklet to educate yourself about the purpose and uses of rain barrels. The booklet is a how-to guide on choosing, building and installing your own rain barrel. Mississippi Watershed Management Organization describes how to use and install a rain barrel in this article and video.

For more information on how to install a rain barrel, check out Metro Blooms' instructional YouTube video.

Workshop-guided rain barrels

FMR and other community rain barrel workshops are a great way to not only get an affordable rain barrel but also learn about their care. All materials are provided, and you'll be able to assemble your rain barrel with staff support.

Check the FMR calendar for upcoming workshops or subscribe to our e-newsletter, Mississippi Messages to be notified when we add rain barrel workshops to the calendar. Please note, we usually offer several each year, but they fill fast!

Your neighborhood organization or local community education may offer rain barrel workshops as well.

Ready-made rain barrels

You can purchase plastic and wooden rain barrels from several locations around the Twin Cities. Check out the Recycling Association of Minnesota, which often partners with local governments to offer discounts to residents each spring.

Setup and maintenance of rain barrels

Set up your rain barrel safely: Make sure you have a level, stable base that's accessible and elevated to give you water pressure. Never drink from a rain barrel — rain barrel rainwater is for plants, not people.

Protect your rain barrel from intense light and keep debris out of the barrel. Disconnect and empty your rain barrel over the winter.

Landscape for the river

Dig into more tips to help protect the river right from your own backyard.

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