Rain catchment systems are easy and effective tools for conserving water outdoors. The captured nonpotable rainwater can be used in a number of activities, including watering lawns and plants, as well as washing tools, cars, and pets. Here are some commonly asked questions about rain catchment.
Rain catchment via recycled barrels and totes is an easy and effective method for conserving water, especially outdoors. Rain barrels or totes are placed outside of the house to collect rainwater - this water can then be used for nonpotable purposes, such as watering the garden, watering indoor plants, and washing tools, cars, and pets. During a water service outage, the water can be used for flushing toilets.
The Board of Water Supply (BWS) estimates that 50 percent of water use occurs outdoors. Because these systems use captured rainwater to irrigate your garden, they reduce the amount of potable (drinking) water used for nonpotable (non-drinking) purposes.
Research shows that up to 600 gallons of water can be collected from just one inch of rain on a 1,000 square foot rooftop. That's enough water to fill 12 large fish tanks! Not only will the use of potable drinking water be reduced when you use a rain catchment system, but the total amount on the water portion of your service bill will be, too.
While rainwater catchment systems on individual homes are not regulated by the State of Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), the department encourages homeowners to take appropriate measures to help make the water they collect safe for domestic use. These measures include being proactive with the design, placement, maintenance and testing of their rain barrel catchment system. By taking those steps, homeowners will have greater confidence in their water quality and minimize the need for treatment or corrective action.
Learn more about how to keep your rain barrel water catchment safe for use at your home by visiting the DOH website at http://health.hawaii.gov/sdwb/raincatchment/.
Local vendors often sell rain barrels. You may also check with local companies who use barrels for product storage and see if they have them available. Large trash cans may also be used to construct your catchment system.
Our forms below allow you to request one (1) recycled 55-gallon barrel or one (1) recyled 300-gallon tote from the Board of Water Supply. We will do our best to meet your request, but our supply depends on our ability to obtain and process recyclable barrels and totes from local retailers and agencies.
The prices for catchment purchased from the Board of Water Supply (BWS) is as follows (and subject to change): $40 for 55-gallon barrel, $80 for 300-gallon tote (plus delivery fee, if applicable, as stated in the request form below).
Constructing your own rain barrel catchment system can be fun and easy! Step-by-step instructions and FAQs are available for how you can make your own barrel at home. The supply list includes everyday items that may be obtained at your local hardware store.
Rain Barrel DIY Resources
- Barrel Dimensions and Setup Examples
- Construction Instructions and FAQs
- Barrel Placement and Maintenance
Also, do you have a plastic barrel you want to convert into a rain barrel but need assistance in drilling and threading the hole? Well you're in luck! Drilling and threading services are being offered to barrel owners by the master gardeners at the Pearl City Urban Garden Center. Those interested may call (808) 453-6055 to schedule an appointment for Tuesday or Thursday between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. or bring your barrel to their Second Saturday event. (Safety measures for the pandemic may have impacted this program.)
Effective placement and routine maintenance of your rain barrel is required to keep it running smoothly and at an optimum level.
Yes, you can! Homeowners often choose to connect multiple rain barrels together to increase their water storage capacity. Information about how to do this is included in our rain barrel placement and maintenance document.
A rain tote is a much larger catchment useful for those with large land areas and higher water use. Dimensions are 9 ft w x 47.75 ft d x 46 ft h. Maximum volume is 300 gallons which yields a weight of 2,490 lbs. Our totes are often used for native plant restoration projects.
Due to tote dimensions (see above), it's very important to consider your installation area and how you will get the tote to its final destination. The installation area needs to be flat, sturdy, and clear of hazards.
If you're sure that you need large rain catchment, you can learn more by watching the video and by reading the rain barrel FAQs above. Many of the tips are the same for rain barrels and rain totes. If you have questions, add them to your request below. Lastly, check out or Instagram account (@bwshonolulu) where we post about catchment and much more!
Additional information about rain barrels can be found at the City & County of Honolulu, Department of Facility Maintenance, Storm Water Quality Branch’s online Learning Center, including this set of fact sheets: Sustainable Practices for Homeowners.
The University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) has great resources through their Rainwater Catchment Systems Program.
Prior to the pandemic, the Board of Water Supply (BWS) and the Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden (FOHXG) offered quarterly rain barrel workshops at the Halawa Xeriscape Garden, While we currently aren't able to meet in-person, we've made available several other mini-workshops, which can be found here.
Using green infrastructure, such as rain catchment systems, helps to capture and use rain water more efficiently and to help keep our water infrastructure, both municipal water and stormwater systems, in good working order
Residential Rain Barrel Catchment Rebate
If you plan on purchasing your 55-gallon rain barrel from a local retailer, you may qualify for a $40 Water Sensible Rebate!
Our first round of online request forms has been a big success! If you would like to purchase a recycled barrel from BWS for rain catchment, please stay tuned. We are working on getting barrels to people on our waiting list. Once we rebuild the supply of recycled barrels, we will make our online request forms available again on this page.
Note that a barrel purchased from BWS does not qualify for a Water Sensible rebate.
Our first round of online request forms has been a big success! If you would like to purchase a recycled tote from BWS for rain catchment, please stay tuned. We are working on getting totes to people on our waiting list. Once we rebuild our supply, we will make our online request forms available again on this page.
Totes require a truck for transport. If you have access to a truck, you may request a pick-up. Otherwise, please request delivery. A delivery fee will apply, based on the distance BWS travels to your address.
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