We've been considering getting a rain barrel, and I like the idea -- it doesn't make sense to just have the water run off into my yard creating a rut; I'd rather put it to good use.

Problem is, my house is a bilevel with no real water consumers on the lower level -- I'd need a pump to get the water into toilets, I don't believe it'd have the pressure to run as a sprinkler, and I don't really want to use it for cooking, but I'd like to collect it for some purpose.

I realize this is open ended, but what are some uses for the high volume but relatively low pressure provided by a rain barrel?

  • Do you have a garden or lawn which requires watering?
    – LShaver
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 16:26
  • @LShaver I have a lawn, but it's at the same level the water barrel would be (minus the height of the barrel) -- I wouldn't think enough pressure could be generated to do anything but create a puddle wherever I tried to connect a sprinkler.
    – Sidney
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 18:09
  • 3
    What about drip irrigation?
    – LShaver
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 18:10
  • 1
    Put it 5 ft in the air. It will enough pressure to water the plants.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 17:17

5 Answers 5


Ok, collecting water is one thing. My first question would be "why collecting water at base level?" Just one meter (yard) higher could generate some pressure to distribute the water better. Most water could be collected at 2 meters (yards) next to gutter. Then a lot of applications could follow.

Probably a pressure washer will not require too much input pressure. So it might be useful for cleaning surfaces or the car.

  • 1
    You'd need a good filter if you were going to run a pressure washer off a rainwater barrel
    – Chris H
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 15:28
  • 1
    Better using two filters - one at entry to the barrel and the other one at exit. They are recommendable for all applications using pipes or ducts to avoid stuffing. Drawing water out of calm barrels some inches above the sediments should provide clear water, but with filters much better.
    – Salt
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 19:33

Plant a birch tree.

Run a hose from the barrel to the tree. Put a soaker hose on the hose, and set it far enough from the tree to go round once. E.g. for a 50 foot soaker hose it would about 8 feet from the trunk. Bury the hose 6" down.

Now everytime it rains, the birch gets water delivered straight to it's roots.

(I mention this, because birch trees here are chronically underwatered, and as a result tend to die at about 30 years.)

Pumps are cheap. In Canada try Princess Auto. In the U.S. Northern Tool. $50 to $100 will get you a pump that will put 30-50 psi at 5 gpm out the other end.

Build a crib of wood, and put the barrel closer to the roof


The rain barrel should at least be up on some cinder blocks for some lift. If that’s not sufficient pressure you could try building a higher apparatus, but be careful - a full rain barrel will become very heavy and have been known to topple from not so sturdy wood structures. The soaker hose is a good suggestion. I’ve seen some pretty innovative/complex rain barrel irrigation systems devised by residents that included rain barrels with soaker hoses at every downspout. You can also just fill up watering cans from the barrel and water your lawn our garden. Technically, you’re not supposed to use the unfiltered runoff on garden eatables, just shrubs and flora, due to the bacteria from bird droppings carried from the roof. And I have seen folks use rainwater in pressure washers. You could also use it to was wash your car or whatever else needs some basic rinsing.


If you want to use rain water in the house it is worth investing in a purpose built system in order to avoid problems associated with stagnant water which is likely to occur in anything you build yourself. Having stagnant untreated water in pipes around the house would be a serious health hazard. For example, a system from freeflush is designed so that mains water flushes the system when there is no supply of rain water.

There are two kinds of systems to consider for domestic use: wall mounted systems (as above) which will typically hold water for a day or two of modest consumption, or buried tanks which could, in principle, hold water for a season. Installation of these larger tanks typically involves some filtration system and will require maintenance (e.g. from Graf).

To use the water in the garden, simply raise the tank on some blocks and use a watering can. For keen gardeners it is a valuable resource, to be used sparingly and kept for plants which are intolerant to the chemicals in the mains supply.

A final option is to dispense with the barrel and let the water run into the ground: but NOT simply at the base of the pipe by the wall of your house. Create a soakaway in your garden and install a pipe from the down pipe to take water into it. If you put the soakaway close to the house you need to be careful to ensure that it can cope with the amount of water coming in and follow building regulations in detail, but if you can place it well away from the house and don't mind an area of the garden being swampy in wet weather it could be a bit simpler.


Submersible pumps can be very cheap , like $10 (US) . The smallest would be for a hose to lay in a bed or on the lawn. I use a $ 25 pump to pump my rain barrel to my pond. I don't think it would be worth the expense of a pump capable of feeding a sprinkler for your application.

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