Rainwater Catchment Systems
Saving for a Sunny Day: Rain Barrels and Cisterns in the Garden
Two happy rainwater harvesters
Cisterns can fit anywhere!
Get RainWise and you may be eligible for a rebate!
Rain tanks come in all shapes and sizes
(Photo courtesy of Rain Dog Designs)
Whether you're a Northwest gardener looking to ensure that your plants don't suffer in the long dry summer, or a business owner looking to manage stormwater runoff from your large roof, you may want to consider an old-fashioned technology: Rainwater Catchment with barrels or cisterns.
Not only will harvesting rainwater safeguard your garden, you’ll also be helping to keep our waterways clean, safe and full of life! When storms occur and large quantities of water go down storm drains, it can pollute local waterways. In some neighborhoods, storm drains flow directly into sewer pipes and heavy storms can cause overflows. By harvesting the rain that falls on your roof, you are keeping stormwater out of sewer pipes.
You can buy or make a catchment system. If you have a very large roof or a lot of plants to care for, consider upgrading to a large-volume cistern which can store more water, thus providing for larger gardens and doing even more to safeguard natural ecosystems. If you live in certain parts Seattle, you may even qualify for a rebate which will cover most or all of your installation costs! To find out more about rebates, visit https://rainwise.seattle.gov/city/seattle/overview
See the Frequently Asked Questions and resources below for more on the benefits of installing your own rainwater catchment system and steps on how you can get started!
More information/general resources
- King County Yard Talk, Episode 10: "Waterwise Gardening." This episode covers drought tolerant landscaping, using cisterns and rain barrels and Smart Watering techniques.
- City of Seattle Department of Planning and Design’s detailed guide (external link) to designing and installing a water catchment system, including LEED benefits and examples of completed projects.
- Washington State Dept. of Ecology’s Introduction to rainwater collection (external link).
- Rainwater Harvesting (PDF, 2MB), an article about the history and technology of rainwater catchment, courtesy of Landscape Architecture Magazine.
- Saving Water Partnership, a group of local water utilities, has some useful information and resources about Rainwater Harvesting (external link).
- Read about a RainWise success story (external link) in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood from the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle.
- American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (external link), with lots of information and resources about rain barrels.
- Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting (external link): The standard reference for professionals on designing rainwater catchment and reuse systems.
- Water Saving in the Garden (PDF), some basic facts about cisterns and rain barrels from King County Wastewater Treatment Division
- A detailed Introduction to rainwater harvesting (external link) from the Ecology Action Center.
- Seattle Public Utilities’ guide to Installing a Cistern (external link).
- Gather information and meet contractors at one of King County’s Upcoming Rainwise Events.
Rain barrel and cistern (rain tank) sources
Following is a list of some sources to purchase rainwater catchment equipment for pick. You can also try calling your favorite local garden center and ask if they stock rain barrels or cisterns.
*Note: King County maintains this list as a courtesy to the public and does not endorse or guarantee the quality of the service offered or provided.
For questions about the Rain Barrel Information and Resources in the Pacific Northwest, please contact Jo Sullivan, Water Quality Planner/Project Manager.