Rainwater barrels and other storage containers for rainwater harvesting can be surprisingly really expensive.
However, if you are diligent, it is often possible to find free rainwater barrels.
Here are some of the best places to look.
Not sure how to convert a barrel for collecting rainwater? See these DIY Rain Barrel Instructions
1. Free Rain Barrels from Your City
Many towns and cities around the USA now offer free rainwater barrels. It’s also common for them to give rebates on rainwater barrels that you purchase. The programs are usually run through the local Department of Water, Department of Public Works, Sanitation Department, or environmental protection programs.
2. Classified Ads
You might have luck finding free rain barrels in local classified ads. Check Craigslist and local Facebook groups. Many people also say they had luck finding rain barrels on Kijiji. Don’t just look for ads from other people – put up your own ad asking people to donate their barrels to you.
3. Local Businesses
Some businesses use large plastic barrels and may be willing to give them to you for free.
- Soda factories
- Bottling/Rebottling companies
- Car washes
Of these businesses, people seem to have the most luck with soda bottling plants. They get syrup in large barrels and will give you their old ones for free. People also had luck getting free rain barrels from car washes. They get detergents in large plastic drums. You just need to rinse them until they stop foaming.
4. IBC Totes
Instead of searching for free rainwater barrels, try searching for IBC totes instead. I’ve heard from numerous people who were able to get them for free or for insanely cheap.
5. Earthbag-Style Rain Collection System
If you want to make a very large rain collection system but don’t want to pay for a cistern, you can make your own with earthbags. Here is a video of how to do it, and here are instructions. It isn’t free because you have to get the supplies, but it is much cheaper than buying a rain tank.
6. Rainwater Pit
Another option is to make a “pond” or pit to collect rainwater. It could be as simple as digging a hole, putting a pond liner in it, and making a lid for it. A more advanced method involves lining the hole with concrete and installing a pump to get the water out. This is very popular in India.
7. Junkyards and Recycling Centers
You probably won’t find free rainwater barrels at a junkyard, but you might find other plastic containers. These can usually be turned into a rainwater barrel fairly easily. There is always a risk that the containers might have contained chemicals or other hazardous materials, though, so don’t use these for watering garden plants you will eat.