Cisterns & Rain Barrels


Cisterns and rain barrels are containers used to capture and store stormwater runoff from rooftops. This water can then be used for irrigation or other uses, but not drinking.

Cisterns are larger containers typically used on commercial sites, while rain barrels are smaller containers often used by homeowners. Both can be purchased in home supply stores or can be made from scrap materials.


  • Conservation of drinking water supplies because stormwater is more readily available for reuse.
  • Creation of a “no cost” water supply for irrigation.

Design Considerations

  • Cisterns and rain barrels are typically connected to the downspout of a roof runoff collection system. Structures without a roof runoff collection system may require the installation of rain gutters or other similar systems to achieve maximum effectiveness.
  • It is recommended they be cleaned yearly.
  • Periodic checks are required to make sure the cistern or rain barrel is properly sealed to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • The average rainfall per storm event in Broward County is approximately 0.5 inches, which for a 1,500 sq. ft. house would produce 467 gallons of stormwater runoff that could potentially be captured each time it rains.


Rain barrels can be functional works of art 

Rain barrels can be functioning works of art for your yard.  Courtesy of South Florida Water Management District.


If you want your rain barrel to be out of sight, consider planting tall shrubs around the drain spout area. Courtesy of  South Florida Water Management District