About Rain Barrels: Popular for residential properties to irrigate small landscapes
Rebate Amount: $70/rain barrel
Size: 40-199 gallons
Installation Requirement: Can be self-installed
Photo: Rain Barrel at a home in Palo Alto
We know you're eager to get started! Make sure to read these steps first. Watch this video to understand if a rain barrel is right for you and learn about rain barrel components, installation, and maintenance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the maximum rebate I can receive?
Applicants can receive $70/barrel on their rain barrel rebates. Applicants can apply for more than one rain barrel in one rebate. The City of Palo Alto partners with Valley Water to offer cost sharing for Stormwater Rebates. Each property has City Stormwater Rebate lifetime maximum and Valley Water Rebate lifetime maximum. The City Stormwater Rebate lifetime maximum is the total amount of funding that one property can receive across that property’s lifetime specific to Stormwater Rebates offered by the City. The rebates included in the Stormwater Rebate lifetime maximum are:
- Rain Barrel Rebate
- Cistern Rebate
- Pervious Pavement Rebate
- Rain Garden Rebate
The Valley Water Rebate lifetime maximum is the total amount of funding that one property can receive across the property lifetime and includes all rebate types offered by the City of Palo Alto and Valley Water (Landscape Conversion, Irrigation Equipment, and Stormwater Rebates). For more information on rebate lifetime maximums please visit Valley Water's Program Overview webpage.
|Type of Property
||Rain Barrel Rebate
||City Stormwater Rebate Lifetime Maximum
($35 from the City and Valley Water, each)
(includes multi-family properties)
($35 from the City and Valley Water, each)
Where can I buy a rain barrel(s)?
Visit your favorite local hardware store to find a rain barrel, online or in person. Here are two local retailers you may also prefer.
- Based out of Santa Rosa, BlueBarrel specializes in rain barrel “daisy chaining” (when multiple rain barrels are connected to the same system). Their online store offers daisy chaining “rainkits”, tools and accessories as well as individual rain barrels themselves.
- BlueBarrel offers a 10% discount on all first-time online purchases for City of Palo Alto applicants. Use the promo code “PaloAlto” at checkout!
Barrel Dreams Inc.
- Based out of Campbell, Barrel Dreams Inc. specializes in upcycling wine barrels from vineyards across the world at a discounted price.
Why should I install a rain barrel?
Rain barrels are low-cost, effective, and maintainable water collecting and conservation devices. Rain barrels are often a secondary source of water for irrigation in residential areas. They provide a source of water for gardens and making compost, reducing the demand for potable water especially during dry summers.
Rain barrels can also help slow the flow of runoff and reduce street ponding during storms.
What are the requirements for a rain barrel rebate?
Per Valley Water and the City of Palo Alto, the following requirements must be met to receive a rain barrel rebate:
- Rain barrel(s) must have the following features:
- Screened inlet connected (directly or indirectly) to a downspout for vector control
- Spigot within 3 inches from the bottom of the barrel
- Capacity of at least 40 gallons, but not larger than 199 gallons (if capacity is larger, visit the Cistern page for rebate information)
- Solid color to prevent algal bloom
- Rain barrel must be placed on a solid and level surface for stability.
- Rain barrel must be elevated at least 6 inches from the ground to allow for increased water pressure for discharge (from the spigot).
- Rain barrel must be positioned so that all water flows unimpeded from the downspout.
- Rain barrel must be placed in a location that does not impede window egress or safe passages for travel.
- Rainwater should not be harvested from roofs made of untreated metal (galvanized), copper, treated wood, lead flashing, or asbestos.
- Overflow water should be directed back into the downspout system, to a drain, or to a suitable rain garden that can absorb water onsite at an appropriate rate. Overflow should be directed away from building or neighboring properties.
- Property must have existing downspouts and gutters along the perimeter of the roof for adequate water collection.
- Rain barrel must be used/designed for the purpose of rainwater capture.
- The City recommends that the barrel be safety secured to building/structure if the height of the barrel is two times greater than the width.
- Rain barrel must be designed for the intended purpose of rain capture. Homemade versions and recycled wine barrels do not qualify.
What if I want to install multiple rain barrels at once?
Installing multiple rain barrels is a great way to save water! Applicants can connect multiple rain barrels using a technique called "Daisy-chaining." This allows for rain to flow through pipes connecting the rain barrels, capturing more rainwater.
Applicants installing multiple rain barrels should be advised that inspections of these sites may be requested by the City on a case-by-case basis. Multi-barrel projects may also require permitting. See "Do I need a City permit for installation of a rain barrel(s)?" below.
What are the components of a rain barrel?
A typical rain barrel will include an inlet connected to a downspout, a screen, an overflow pipe, and a spigot at or near the bottom of the barrel. Rain barrels are often made of plastic, metal, wood, stone, or clay.
- Downspouts carry water from the gutters to the rain barrel storage.
- Water enters the rain barrel through the inlet.
- The screen of the rain barrel keeps mosquitos and other insects out of the water supply.
- The overflow mechanism releases excess rainwater. Overflow should direct rainwater into pervious surfaces like gardens for irrigation or can connect to adjacent rain barrels.
- The spigot allows access to the water stored in the barrel. The spigot can be kept open to retain water from the barrel or closed to store more water.
How do I determine the size rain barrel I need?
The size of your system depends on the:
- Area of the roof diverting into rain barrel(s)
- Area of the yard
- Intended water use
Single-family homes hoping to irrigate a small garden or lawn may prefer one or two large rain barrels sized up to 199 gallons (if larger, visit the cistern rebate page). If you have a larger garden, you may want to install more than one rain barrel. Applicants that desire higher storage capacities may prefer a cistern over a multi-barrel system. Rain barrels often fill up completely during one storm event and this should be considered when selecting the right size barrel(s).
Do I need a City permit for installation of a rain barrel(s)?
Any rain barrel installation with the following features will need a building permit or consultation with the City of Palo Alto Development Center before installation:
- Stacked rain barrels (i.e., one rain barrel on top of another)
- Any Installation that involves permanent pumps or plumbing
- Any installation that connects to potable water or automatic irrigation
To inquire about permitting, contact the Development Center at (650) 329-2496 and select Option 3 for Building Plan Check Team when prompted. Permit approval should be submitted at the time of your application.
Do I need an installation inspection for a rain barrel rebate?
Single rain barrel installations do not require a pre or post-installation inspection. However, rain barrels that are connected to potable water or automatic irrigation may require a pre-inspection of the property. There may be other situations where the City may require a pre-inspection. If this is the case, the City will contact you to set up an inspection.
How should I maintain my rain barrel?
Rain barrels need little maintenance once installed. San Francisco Water, Power, and Sewer(PDF, 18MB) suggests following these simple steps to maintain rain barrels:
- Inspect inlet area every six months to remove debris, algae growth, or any other obstruction from the surface
- Before and after the rainy season (Oct.-Apr.), clear downspouts, roof gutters, screens, overflow outlets, and filters on your barrel. This will prevent clogging
- Once a year, flush out any debris or buildup that may have accumulated on the bottom of the rain barrel. For tough buildup, you may scrub the bottom using vinegar or another non-toxic cleaner
- Maintain clear access to the rain barrel and outlets for regular maintenance
- Repair leaks or holes immediately
- BASMAA Rain Barrel Fact Sheet This guide offers information about rain barrels and cisterns regarding installation and maintenance. The City does not take responsibility for the material and recommendations made in this resource.
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