Shake off those winter blues, warmer weather and longer days and are finally here. Which also means, so are the Spring showers. Rain barrels can be a great tool for reducing stormwater runoff. To maximize the amount of water that can be collected, the barrel should be emptied after each large rain event along with regular maintenance. Properly maintaining your rain barrel is key to the functionality and longevity of the barrel. Before you begin, it is important to know the parts of a rain barrel and their function. Below are examples of types used in the RiverSmart Homes Rain Barrel program; the RiverSides Rain Barrel and the Hydra Barrel.

Riversides Barrel

Starting at the point of entry, water is channeled to the barrel through the downspout that is connected to the diverter box.

Inside the diverter box is a cylinder with an internal filter. This filter is used to collect sediment and leaf debris draining from the roof area, as well as prevent the formation of mosquito larvae.

The cylinder is used to direct the water to the barrel when turned to “collect” or flow out through the overflow when turned to “bypass”.

Once water has collected inside the barrel, it is released through the spigot and can be used to water nearby plants.


Hydra Barrel

Similar to the RiverSides, the Hydra barrel receives water through the downspout.

The downspout is connected to a Y diverter that contains a toggle switch. This switch is used to direct the water to collect inside the barrel or flow out through the overflow.

When water is directed to collect, the water will flow down the filter deck, through the external filter basket, and into the barrel to be released through the spigot. 


Regular Maintenance for All Barrel Types

After each rain event, it is important to clean and rinse the filter to prevent clogging and drain the barrel completely to maximize the rainwater it can capture.

Bi-annual maintenance includes re-leveling the ground underneath the barrel if needed, cleaning roof gutters, and inspecting the downspout leading to the barrel to confirm it is secure and well connected to the house.

To prepare the barrel for winter, empty the barrel, switch the diverter to bypass mode, and leave the spigot open before temperatures drop below freezing. This will prevent water from collecting in the barrel and freezing causing the barrel to swell and crack when temperatures drop. (Right photo credit: West Virginia University)

For other types of barrels and their associated maintenance please visit the manufacturer’s website. Some popular options are:

Regular maintenance of your rain barrel will help to keep it working properly. For more maintenance recommendations or for  information on where to find replacement parts please visit: