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Water flows out of a drain-spout into a rain collection barrel.

Rain barrels and cisterns are ancient technologies that are making a comeback as water shortages prompt homeowners to save and use rain that falls on their properties. Large, plastic rain barrels are now available at home and garden stores and on the internet. For best results, choose one that is at least 42 gallons.

Rain barrels typically tie into your home guttering system. They reduce water pollution by reducing the amount of stormwater runoff. There are many rain barrel designs, both commercial and creative do-it-yourself styles. No matter the design, they all have three things in common: incoming, outgoing, and overflow features.

There is an opening for water coming into the barrel and two more openings for water going out. A spigot inserted near the bottom allows you to fill a watering can or connect a hose. An overflow is needed near the top to remove excess water during heavy rain events.

Rain Barrels collect rainwater from rooftops

Rain barrels collect rainwater from rooftops

A cistern has a greater storage capacity than a rain barrel. Water from a roof is filtered, collected, and stored in a container made of reinforced concrete, metal, fiberglass, or plastic. Although usually underground, cisterns may be placed at ground level or elevated on stands either outdoors or within buildings. Water travels from the cistern upon demand by either gravity feed or pump action to be used.

Cisterns have a greater water capacity than rain barrels

A cistern has a greater water capacity than a rain barrel.

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