Water Butts


Water is a precious resource and we can help to conserve as much as possible by collecting rainwater and using it in the garden. With more and more homes now fitted with water meters and the increase in hosepipe bans, collecting and storing rainwater makes good gardening sense from every point of view. In fact, as it is free from lime, rain water is better for garden and house plants than tap water, especially for acid-loving plants.

If you're thinking of buying a water butt, it's worth getting in touch with your Local Authority first. Most councils encourage water conservation efforts and many offer customers the chance to buy rain butts at a fraction of the retail price.

A water butt will collect and store rainwater from the house or greenhouse roof and is available in a range of sizes and styles to suit your requirements. The volume will depend on the size of your roof and the amount of water that drains from it; you may find that you need more than one.

Basic Features

A water butt should have a child-proof lid to keep out insects, leaves and debris. This will prevent the water from becoming polluted from a build up of algae, which can be harmful to your plants. Water may be drawn off by using the tap at the bottom, or by lifting the lid and dipping a watering can into the butt. You may need to raise the butt up onto a stand or a pile of blocks to allow room for a watering can to fit beneath the tap.

Your water butt should be frost proof. If heavy frosts are forecast, drop a couple of tennis balls into the water to prevent any expansion damage due to ice formation.

Downpipe Diverters

Rainwater is fed into the waterbutt via a downpipe diverter, which fits onto your drain pipe. There are a number of various types available, some are automatic and will divert overflow amounts back down the drainpipe. You can also buy special filters to prevent leaves and dirt clogging the rainwater diverter. Alternatively, an old stocking slipped onto the end of the drainpipe can make a good temporary downpipe filter. Do bear in mind that it will need to be cleaned regularly.


Submersible pumps may be fitted to water butts to allow you to irrigate large areas of your garden. These are attached to the lid of the butt and pump water out into a hosepipe outlet. If using a pump, you should also install a low level cut-off float switch that will activate when the water level drops, preventing your pump from running dry and becoming damaged.


Water butts should be cleaned out every year or two; however, if you have installed a filter to keep debris out, you may find that the butt needs cleaning less often.

Water your garden so that the water level drops to the height of the tap. Disconnect the butt from the drainpipe and then swirl the remaining water around to loosen any sediment at the bottom. Discard the remains of the water and re-connect to the drainpipe.