- Water Butt guide

Recycling waste food and packaging are well known solutions to achieving a greener home. However the huge amount of water left to run off our roofs is a largely untapped source (excuse the pun). Setting up a water butt (or rainwater tank) in your garden to capture this "greywater" is an easy way to cut your water bill and have a plentiful supply through dry summers and drought restrictions.

Despite its notorious reputation for wet weather, the UK is beginning to experience water shortages, with the lowest rainfall, groundwater and reservoir levels for decades. According to Water Wise, on average each person in the UK uses 150 litres of water a day. This figure has been rising by 1% a year since 1930 and is not sustainable in the long-term.

The average household uses about 7% of its water outdoors. Using water from a water butt will save you from having to use costly tap water for garden irrigation, car washing and anything else that does not require the use of drinking water. In fact, most plants prefer rainwater to tap water so your garden will thrive if you use a water butt.

The water-hungry hosepipe can use as much as 18 litres of water a minute. In 30 minutes that’s more water than the entire average family uses in a day. The average house roof collects approximately 85,000 litres of rain each year which just runs straight into the sewers. This is a terrible waste, especially if you have a water meter. That amount of water could fill hundreds of water butts. Read on to find out how you can tap into this free resource.

How is a water butt set up?

The first thing you need to do is make sure you have space for your water butt next to the downpipe (the pipe that drains rain water from your roof). Also, you will need to make sure that you have a plastic downpipe, and not an iron one. If you do not have the necessary guttering, it may be worth considering setting it up to save water costs.

Setting up a water butt is very simple, but you should follow the instructions provided with your model carefully to ensure that it is installed correctly. One method is to remove the bottom of your downpipe so that the upper part flows directly into the water butt which is positioned beneath it. You will also need to add an overflow pipe to take excess water to the drain. Alternatively, you can remove part of your downpipe and fit a rain diverter over the cut area to channel water straight into the butt. Once the water butt is full excess water will go directly into the downpipe. To receive water from the diverter, your water butt will need a hole in its side: butts will either come with this hole ready drilled or with a guide indicating where to cut.

Install your water butt on a firm surface which is strong enough to support the weight of the butt when full. Ensure that the surface is flat so that your diverter can work, stopping water overflowing. You may wish to purchase a water butt stand which will also raise the height, allowing you to fill your watering can from beneath the tap. Many varieties of butt offer a custom-built stand such as the Classic Square Water Butt.

Top Tips

  • If you have a plastic water butt, then make sure you empty it when there is a risk of freezing.
  • If your water butt can be accessed by children or pets, then secure the lid to the barrel.
  • Place your butt in a shaded area to increase the life span of the tank and keep the stored water fresher for longer.

What else does a water butt require?

A Filter Collector

It is important to filter the water to prevent a build up of leaves and debris when collecting water from your roof. A filter collector can be bought with your water butt. It attaches to your downpipe, acting as the rain diverter, but with a built-in sieve. Choose a variety with a convenient “overflow stop” feature, sending excess water to the drain and preventing a full water butt from overflowing.

A Water Butt Pump

This accessory is not a necessity but invaluable if you have a large garden or wish to run a hose. A Water butt pump gives you the pressure of mains water with the convenience of recycled rainwater.

What types of water butt are available?

Water butts are available in a huge variety of shapes and sizes to suit your requirements. Choose one that makes the most of your space and gardening needs, from a compact 200 litres to a huge 1000 litres. You can even connect several water butts with an all-inclusive rain tank system. A lid is a must to protect your water from garden debris, animals and insects – particularly mosquitoes during the summer. From a standard green to an elegant white water butt in the style of a stone column, choose the butt that suits your garden – see our complete range.