Free Rain Barrel Program
What is a Rain Barrel?
Rain barrels are a type of green infrastructure that capture rainwater from your roof and save it for when you need it.
By keeping this water out of the sewer system, rain barrels can also help prevent sewer overflows and flooding.
You can use rain barrel water to wash your car, water your lawn, or clean work boots and tools.
Rain barrel water is naturally free of chlorine, lime, and calcium and some gardeners swear their plants prefer it. However, since rain barrel water is runoff from your roof, do not drink it!
Where should I place the Rain Barrel?
Most homes can benefit from rain barrels. Areas of your yard that are unpaved or pervious ground near your downspouts are good locations for your rain barrels. Homeowners throughout Cook County have incorporated rain barrels into their yards with great results.
What size is the Rain Barrel?
MWRD’s rain barrels are 55 gallons and made using repurposed or upcycled food barrels.
Acquiring your Rain Barrel
Rain barrels are free of charge from MWRD for South Holland residents. Order your rain barrels by calling the Public Works Department at (708) 339-2323. Due to popular demand, there is a limit of two rain barrels per household.
Rain Barrel Documents
Rain Barrel Installation
Required tools: Hacksaw, tape measure, goggles, gloves, pen or pencil
Recommended materials: 7′-10′ garden hose, concrete blocks and/or pressure treated wood
1. Designate Space and Place Your Barrel
Rain barrels need to be located near a downspout and on level, pervious (water-absorbing – not paved) ground.
Your rain barrel will overflow during heavy rain, so be sure you can direct overflow to pervious ground and away from your home and your neighbor’s home.
Placing your rain barrel on a stable platform will help increase water pressure and make it easier to use a watering can or bucket. Concrete blocks or pressure-treated wood work well for platforms. A full rain barrel weighs approximately 500 pounds, so make sure the platform is sturdy!
If you have a favorite watering can, adjust your platform to make sure it will fit comfortably under the spigot.
2. Measure and Cut
Once your rain barrel is in place, position the flexible elbow (included with your rain barrel) on the barrel and next to the downspout to determine where to cut. The elbow should be aimed at the screened opening on the top of the rain barrel, and the downspout must be inserted about 2″ into the elbow. For most installations, it works well to cut the downspout about 8″ above the top of the barrel.
Keep in mind that the downspout will need to be inserted a couple inches into the connecting elbow. Mark the downspout with a pen or pencil where you will be cutting it.
Once you are sure where to cut, put on your safety goggles and gloves and cut the downspout with a hacksaw.
3. Connect Elbow to the Downspout
Connect the flexible elbow to the cut downspout by inserting the downspout into the elbow and positioning it so water will flow into your rain barrel.
4. Connect Garden Hose to Overflow Fitting
Connect a garden hose to the overflow fitting and direct it away from your house. Depending on the location of your rain barrel and your yard, this hose may need to be at least 7′ to 10′ long.
Another option is to connect a second rain barrel to double your rainwater collection capacity, and then connecting the garden hose to the overflow fitting of the second rain barrel.
5. Cap Off Old Downspout (where applicable)
If applicable, cap off the old downspout location on the ground to prevent it from becoming an animal’s nest or clogged with debris.
Rain Barrel Maintenance
Regularly check your gutters, downspouts, rain barrel water intake screen, rain barrel mosquito screen and rain barrel spigot for leaks, obstructions or debris. Also, confirm that the lid is secure so children and animals cannot fall into the rain barrel.
Drain your rain barrel before temperatures drop below freezing and keep the spigot open in the winter so water does not accumulate and freeze. You can also turn it upside down or bring it inside to ensure no water accumulates in the barrel.
Your rain barrel comes with a mosquito-proof screen under the lid. When the mosquito netting is intact, and there are no leaks where mosquitoes can enter the barrel, your rain barrel should be mosquito-free.
Remove accumulated water from the top of the barrel every 3-4 days during the rainy season. Mosquitoes need at least 4 days of standing water to develop larvae. If you believe mosquitoes may be breeding in your rain barrel, empty it completely and let it dry out to kill all mosquitoes.