How Much Does a Rainwater Collection System Cost?

Typical Range:

$120 - $21,000

Find out how much your project will cost.

Cost data is based on research by HomeAdvisor.

Updated March 14, 2022

Written by HomeAdvisor.

Water Catchment System Cost

Most homeowners pay $2,500 to install a water catchment or rainwater collection system. A single rain barrel might only cost $120 while an extensive system can run up to $21,000. Tank size is one of the main price factors, as is the system setup. For example, adding water disinfection technology will up the price.

One thing to note about rainwater collection systems is that, in some areas, there are rebates that lower the cost. While not available everywhere, some states offer up to 50% off the price of installation. Do some research to see if your project could qualify.

Average Rainwater Harvesting System Cost

Average Cost $2,500
High Cost $21,000
Low Cost $120

Rainwater Collection System Methods

There are two primary rainwater collection system methods. These include rooftop systems and surface runoff systems. Each system works a bit differently and will be the better fit depending on the situation.

Rooftop rainwater collection systems capture rainwater in roof catchments and store it in reservoirs. Reservoir tanks for rooftop collection systems can be either above ground or underground. Generally, rooftop rainwater collection systems store water for use onsite and help individuals or organizations be self-sufficient in their water supply. 

Surface Runoff

In urban areas, excess rainwater becomes surface runoff. Surface runoff systems collect this runoff and use it for irrigation or other purposes in areas that may differ from where it was collected. Rainwater caught via surface runoff systems is generally stored in underground tanks and can be very economical. Surface runoff water collection systems reduce soil erosion and flooding and help meet a city or community's water demands. 

Rainwater System Components

Filtration System

A rainwater filtration system typically costs between $1,200 and $3,100 for just the system itself. Find a plumber in your area to see rates for this project.

Conveyance System

A conveyance system for your rainwater collection can cost between $100 and $1,500, depending on how complex a system you need. The cost of this system will largely be determined by how many pipes and fittings you need.  

Water Storage 

The price of water storage containers varies based primarily on the amount of water you’ll be storing and the exact type of storage you’ll need. A simple rain barrel will cost around $120, while a multi-tank underground system could cost as much as $6,000. 

Collection Area

The collection area for a rooftop collection system consists of the gutters and the roof. The collection area for a surface runoff system includes whatever section of ground you designate as where you want the water to flow towards and into your tank. Average costs for the collection area vary by system type and size and range from $500 to $9,000

Rain Barrel Cost

Installing a 100-gallon rain barrel could cost anywhere from $120 to $1,600, depending on the material and labor. Plastic barrels are the most cost-effective but might not last as long. If you’re planning on connecting your rain barrel to an irrigation system, you’ll pay more for labor.

Rain Barrel Installation Cost

Hiring a handyperson costs from $70 to $250 for rain barrel installation, not including the barrel. Barrel installation could be as simple as finding the best spot to set it up, or it could involve more complex gutter work. Some people even set up sprinkler systems with their rain barrel, which will cost more to install.

If you need additional exterior work to get the rain barrel in place or want to add on extra features, your project prices will increase:

Rain Barrel Prices

Rain barrel prices vary by material and size, but usually run between $0.50 and $4.00 per gallon. Most homeowners pay around $140 for a smaller, 40- to 60-gallon barrel.

Material Cost Size
Recycled Plastic $85 50 Gallons
Brass $200 55 Gallons
Polyethylene $200 65 Gallons
Oak $170 50 Gallons
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Cistern Cost

The price to install a cistern spans from $150 to $21,000. Prices on the low end reflect above-ground cisterns that are 50 gallons or less.

The reason prices vary so much is because, unlike a rain barrel, a cistern can go above or below ground. Installing a 150- to 200-gallon cistern above ground might not cost more than $660. An underground, 5,500-gallon concrete cistern with UV sterilization is $21,000.

Above-ground cistern prices are usually the same as rain barrel prices, between $0.50 and $4.00 per gallon. Galvanized steel tends to be the most expensive material. An above-ground, 1,000-gallon steel cistern costs $2,010.

Underground cisterns are significantly higher in material costs.

Cistern Installation Cost

Just the installation for a cistern could run upwards of $12,000 or more. An above-ground cistern might only cost between $70 and $250, similar to the cost of a rain barrel, but underground cisterns will dramatically raise installation costs.

With an underground cistern, you might see some of the following project components and prices:

Water Cistern Systems Cost

Prices for a water cistern system might fall between $5,000 and $12,000. A full water cistern system usually includes routing water back to the house so that it’s safe for human use. Talk to a plumber near you for a quote.

Cistern Prices by Material

Above-ground cistern prices are usually the same as rain barrel prices, between $0.50 and $4.00 per gallon. Galvanized steel tends to be the most expensive material. An above-ground, 1,000-gallon steel cistern costs $2,010.

Underground cisterns are significantly higher in material costs.

Cistern Material Cost Size
Concrete $3,000 – $6,000 5,000 Gallons
Steel $3,000 – $6,000 5,000 Gallons
Fiberglass $2,000 – $5,000 5,000 Gallons
Polyethylene $2,000 – $4,000 5,000 Gallons

Concrete Tank Prices

An underground, 5,500-gallon concrete cistern might cost between $17,000 and $21,000 to install, including excavation backfilling, grading and water filtration. If you’re looking for a different size, know that the cost to pour concrete is about $4 per cubic foot, not including labor. The average price of a 5,000-gallon tank is between $3,000 and $6,000.

Steel Tank Prices

Steel water tanks range in cost depending on their size and storage capacity. If you just need a small tank, you can expect to spend around $300 for an 80-gallon steel tank. If you need a larger tank, those that are 3,750 gallons cost around $15,000. The average price of a 5,000-gallon tank is between $3,000 and $6,000. 

Fiberglass Tank Prices

Similar to water tanks made of other materials, fiberglass water tanks range in price based on storage capacity and size. Fiberglass water storage tanks range in price from $300 to $30,000. The average price of a 5,000-gallon tank is between $2,000 and $5,000

Polyethylene 

Polyethylene water storage tanks are known for being durable, easy to install, and low maintenance. The cost of polyethylene water storage tanks ranges from around $825 to $21,000, depending on the size and water storage capacity of the specific tank. The average price of a 5,000-gallon tank is between $2,000 and $4,000.

Downspout and Gutter Collection System Costs

Downspouts and gutters are a vital part of any rooftop water collection system. Downspouts typically cost between $300 and $600, while gutters cost $4 to $30 per linear foot, with an average total cost of $1,900 for a pro to install gutters. The cost of a gutter system is impacted primarily by the materials you choose and the lateral length of the gutter system to be installed.

Additional Rainwater System Costs

Any time you start a new home project, it can be valuable to think about what additional system costs you might incur. Additional rainwater system costs include:

  • The cost associated with digging to bury a water tank

  • Landscaping costs

  • Unexpected maintenance and repairs

  • Obtaining any necessary local permits 

  • Piping inspections 

Rainwater Harvesting System Maintenance Costs

Rainwater harvesting system maintenance will typically cost about $740 per year, assuming you don’t need any repairs. A simple rain barrel is the easiest (and most cost-effective) to maintain, as a simple cleaning a few times a year will do the job. Water filtration systems and underground cisterns cost the most in upkeep.

Here are some costs you can expect to encounter over the course of owning a rainwater harvesting system:

  • For water filtration systems, expect to pay around $250 per year for new UV bulbs and filters.

  • A one-time gutter cleaning costs $160 on average.

  • Replacing a pump costs $1,800 and should happen every 20 years.

Cistern Cleaning Cost

Cleaning a cistern averages $650 for a one-time service. For optimal function and life expectancy, you should schedule a cleaning every two years.

DIY Rain Collection System vs. Hiring a Pro

If you’re looking to put in a smaller, easy-to-install rain barrel, there’s a good chance you can take this project on by yourself. However, you still might need to contact someone to work with your gutters to make sure they fit. It’s also important to do your research on how rain barrels work. You might not think it, but smaller barrels can flood from less than 1 inch of rain.

Larger rain collection systems and underground cisterns almost certainly require a professional. These projects can involve anything from land grading and excavation to setting up a water filtration system. Especially when redirecting rainwater for human use, it’s extremely important to rely on a professional for safety’s sake.

Rainwater Laws

Depending on where you live, you may be required to obey certain laws related to rainwater collection. Rainwater collection is not illegal in any state but some areas do face restrictions. If a state enforces restrictions, it is usually because that area experiences drought or other issues with water access. 

Thirteen states allow rainwater collection with some restrictions, 17 states allow it without restrictions and 20 encourage or incentivize it. To find out if your state has rainwater laws, reach out to your local government and ask directly. 

FAQs

How do you install a cistern system?

Installing a cistern can be as easy as placing a barrel or tank underneath a downspout, or as complex as putting one underground. For underground cisterns, a team will excavate land, place the cistern and route it for irrigation and/or household purposes, then fill the land back in once it’s set up. If using the water throughout the home, a professional will also hook it up to your home’s plumbing.

What are cistern liner prices?

Cistern liner prices vary on the size of the cistern and material you choose. You’ll have to contact a manufacturer for specific costs.

How does a cistern work?

A cistern collects rainwater, either from gutters and downspouts or from rainwater seeping into the ground. You can repurpose that water in a number of ways, such as for a sprinkler system, for watering your garden, or even for filtering into potable water.

How long can you store rainwater?

The length of time that you can store rainwater depends on the condition and purpose of the water, as well as the collection system you have set up. For watering your garden or lawn, water is fine to use for a long time as long as algae doesn’t start to grow. For water drinking purposes, water can last indefinitely as long as it’s properly treated and in a container that doesn’t break down.

How much rainwater can I collect?

For every inch of rain that falls over 1,000 square feet of collection surface, you can collect between 550 and 630 gallons of rainwater. In other words, if you have a 1,000-square-foot roof and you get half an inch of rain and all that water is directed to your harvesting system, you’ll collect 225 gallons of water.

Is harvesting water cost-effective?

Harvesting rainwater is considered by most to be very cost-effective. While there are initial costs associated with setting up your rainwater collection system, it allows you to access free water on an ongoing basis. 

Collected rainwater can be used for things like landscaping or regular lawn watering but, with the right equipment, it can also be used for things like cooking, bathing, and drinking. If you live in an area that encourages rainwater collection, you might also be able to claim tax incentives both when you install your system and each year that you use it.

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