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Rain barrels: here's how to get a cheap one in SoCal

Photo by Susy Morris via Flickr Creative Commons

The city of Los Angeles recently announced that it'd be administering rain harvesting workshops, along with 1,000 free rain barrels that residents could use to irrigate plants. But the classes sold out quickly leaving thousands of Angelenos asking: What about me?

Turns out: There are other ways to obtain cheap barrels (if you're willing to do a little bit of work.) Plus, the city offers a rebate of $75 per barrel, which means it could be worth buying your own. 

The basics

Rain barrels reduce runoff; that water is also good for plants and gardens. More on that here.

Where should you put it? Choose a downspout on your house or garage that is close to the plants and garden you water most. Your other downspouts can be disconnected and directed into your yard, according to SoCal Water Smart. 

Pro tip: The barrel must be at least 50 gallons to get the rebate. Guidelines here.

Where to get it cheap

You can find recycled water barrels with a little bit of work. The ones obtained by the city of Los Angeles were donated by Coca-Cola and previously used to collect syrup. Here are a handful of other places to consider. 

  • Craigslist: A quick search shows some options in the area. 
  • Car washes: These businesses sometimes use barrels to store soap, according to
  • Vineyards: Going wine tasting? Bring back a barrel. Here's how to make it work.
  • Distributors/bottlers: Some common uses for these barrels include soda syrups, juice, soy sauce, grain alcohol, hops for beer, olives or pickles and marinades. Start at the grocery store. Ask if any of these are bottled locally. 
  • DIY: Hack a trashcan or blue barrel. Options here.
  • Tree People: The environmental solutions group has long helped people get rain barrels.

Updated note: Be sure your barrel hasn't contained any toxic or hazardous material in the past. 

How to make it pretty

This blog suggests growing vines or using plants to spruce it up. Or if you're willing to splurge, you can buy a nice one. Fine Gardening has curated some of its favorites from around the web. You can also purchase a fancy one from Home DepotAmazon or Hayneedle. And don't forget to cash in on that rebate

Step-by-step implementation

Check out this how-to video. 

How to install a rain barrel

Where did you get your rain barrel? Snap a pic and share with us on Twitter or Facebook