Rainwater Collection System Cost By Type

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated March 10, 2022
A father and son sweeping water from front yard on rainy day
Photo: freemixer / E+ / Getty Images


  • Barrels and cisterns are the two most popular ways to collect rainwater.

  • Cisterns are more complex systems, and often are stored underground. As such, they tend to cost more.

  • A handyperson can install yours, but you’ll save money by doing it yourself.

  • In some cases, rainwater barrels may be free through your local water department.

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For homeowners who live in wet climates—or those who aspire to off-grid living—setting up a rainwater collection system makes a ton of sense. One inch of rainfall can yield as much as six gallons of water that you can use to cook with, clean, and run appliances.

From simple to complex, though, rainwater harvesting systems vary greatly. In this cost guide, learn the types of rainwater collection systems that’ll fit your goals and budget.

How Much Does a Rainwater Collection System Cost?

Ranging from simple to elaborate design, rain collection systems can vary greatly in cost. The average cost for homeowners is between $120 and $21,000. You can collect fresh water without a steep initial investment for a basic system, such as a single rainwater barrel. 

Cisterns, on the other hand, are where costs can quickly add up. Additional features like filtration systems can drive prices up into the five-figure range.

What Rainwater Collection System Can I Get on My Budget?

A modern cistern water collection system
Photo: Thomas Barrat / Adobe Stock

Here’s a breakdown of the four price ranges you can expect when shopping for your rainwater collection system.

Under $500

For under $500, homeowners have several options for fresh rainwater collection. Barrels and cisterns up to 150 pounds are both available in this price range, with a plastic model for each available for around $120.

In some cases, you may be able to get a simple rainwater barrel for free. Some local water departments have programs available where qualified homeowners can receive a free rain collection kit for being a resident.

$501 to $2,500

Larger rain barrels (up to 5,000 gallons) are available in this price range. Investing in a barrel with this much space is best for homeowners looking to use natural rainwater for various things, like cleaning, cooking, running appliances, and even watering the lawn.

Some brands sell smaller cisterns (up to 2,000 gallons) for just under $2,300. You may opt for a more basic barrel over a cistern with less capacity to save money here. 

$2,500 to $12,000

For under $12,000, homeowners can choose from several above-ground barrels and cisterns. You may even be able to get two or three smaller barrels to increase holding capacity.

In this price range, you can also spring for more complex installation methods. For example, you may opt to hook your barrel(s) up to gutter downspouts or even hook it up to your lawn irrigation system. For a singular barrel installation, pouring new concrete for an in-ground cistern may be possible if you shop around for a deal.

$12,000 or More

High-end underground cisterns start around $12,000 and may go up to $22,000 with labor costs and additional features. At this range, you’re likely setting up an off-grid water system with filtration capabilities that will be a large portion of your water use in the home. These devices function similarly to well water. 

Drilling a new well costs $15 to $60 per square foot, so that may be something to consider based on your needs and budget.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Rainwater Collection System Yourself?

You can set up a rainwater barrel for basic harvesting in under an hour. A handyperson will charge between $70 and $250 to do the job, so you can save some cash there.

If you’re willing to clean or self-install new gutters or pour concrete, you could save thousands by installing a rainwater collection system DIY.

Be sure to check local guidelines surrounding rainwater collection systems before you begin. Some states set limits on how much rainwater you can collect. In Colorado, it’s actually illegal for most homeowners to harvest their own rainwater.

Rainwater Collection System Cost Breakdown

Here are the factors that may influence how much you pay to collect rainwater.

Type of System

The two basic types of rainwater collection systems are barrels and cisterns. They differ based on size (cisterns are generally bigger) as well as where they can be stored. Rainwater barrels are generally above-ground and stationed against the home. You can store cisterns in the same places; manufacturers also design some to go underground or behind concrete.

Rain barrels range from free to $2,160. Cisterns range from $150 to $21,000.

Rainwater System Complexity

You can use a simple retention water barrel that collects water at your leisure. More complex systems, such as a direct-pumped device, come with filtration devices, UV bulbs for cleaning, and electric pumps that channel water where it needs to go.

More complex systems may require installing pipes, new gutter downspouts, or a new gutter system altogether. Gutter installation costs $1,030 on average.

This can adjust costs on the front-end and add additional maintenance fees later on. For example, replacing the UV bulb—which you should do every year—costs $250 per year.


Depending on the type of system you buy, labor costs may be nominal or sneakily expensive.

Hiring a handyperson to hook up your device could cost up to $230, but additional tasks, like having your gutters cleaned ($160), having a gutter repaired ($180 to $530), or laying down new concrete ($4 per square foot) can up the price.

Filtration Systems

Higher-end cisterns and barrels often come with filtration systems, which cost about $740 per year to maintain, including new bulbs and filters. Opting for a basic model can save you lots of money here, as you’ll only need to worry about cleaning your unit annually.

Frequently Asked Questions

It depends on your budget and goals. If you’re simply looking to reduce your water bill and harvest natural water for things like watering the lawn, a rain barrel will suffice. For giving your whole home natural water, a cistern (whether a high-end or larger basic model that’s more affordable), might be the better option.

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