How much does it cost to install a rainwater harvesting system?
Ashburn, VA

How much does it cost to install a rainwater harvesting system?

Ashburn, VA

How much does it cost to install a rainwater harvesting system?

$200 – $2,500average rain barrel collection system cost
$2,000 – $12,000average cistern collection system cost

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:

$200 – $2,500 average rain barrel collection system cost

$2,000 – $12,000 average cistern collection system cost


Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
Tara Farmer
Written by
Tara Farmer
Fact-checked by
Kristen Cramer

Rainwater harvesting system cost

A rainwater harvesting system costs $200 to $2,500 installed for an above ground, 50- to 200-gallon rain barrel system. Installing a residential cistern or rainwater collection system costs $2,000 to $12,000 on average for an above ground cistern or $6,500 to $24,000 for an underground tank, depending on the size.

Rainwater harvesting system cost
System type Average total installed cost
Above ground rain barrel system $200 – $2,500
Above ground cistern system (wet) $5,000 – $28,500+
Above ground cistern system (dry) $2,000 – $10,000
Underground cistern system $6,500 – $24,000+

Rainwater collection system cost

Rooftop rainwater harvesting costs $200 to $28,500 installed and is the most common residential rainwater collection method. Rooftop systems use the roof surface, gutters, and downspouts to collect and channel rainwater into a storage tank.

A surface runoff harvesting system costs $8,000 to $30,000 installed and uses the landscaping to direct and collect water after it hits the ground. Landscapers construct berms, swales, or French drains to direct water flow from the ground's highpoint to an underground storage system at the lowest point.

Rainwater collection system cost
Method Average cost installed
Rooftop harvesting system $200 – $28,500 
Surface runoff / stormwater harvesting system $8,000 – $30,000+

Cistern cost

A cistern costs $2,000 to $28,500+ installed, depending on the size and type.

Cistern cost
Type Average installed cost Details
Dry $2,000 – $10,000
  • Water funnels from gutters directly into the cistern top.
  • Cost-effective; less piping involved
  • Quicker installation
  • The cistern must be close to the roof.
Wet $5,000 – $28,500+
  • Water flows from the downspouts through underground piping and back up into cistern installed away from the roof.
  • More expensive due to the added digging and piping needed
  • Higher mosquito potential due to standing water in pipes
  • Pipes require occasional draining to remove old water
Underground $6,500 – $24,000+
  • Water flows to a buried storage tank, saving space on the property
  • Tank protected from damage and extreme temperatures
  • Requires excavation and additional piping
  • Not suitable for every soil type

Cistern rainwater tank costs

A cistern rainwater tanks costs $800 to $12,000 for a tank up to 5,000 gallons. Larger models cost up to $20,000+. Most cisterns are tall and cylinder-shaped, but some companies offer low-profile tanks for easier burial when installing underground systems. A cistern is a rain barrel larger than 200 gallons.

Cistern rainwater tank prices by material
Tank material Average price* Capacity options (gallons)
Concrete tank $1,100 – $6,800 600 – 10,000+
Fiberglass tank $5,000 – $9,000 300 – 20,000+
Polyethylene tank $800 – $6,000 250 – 10,000+
Steel tank $2,000 – $12,000 233 – 70,000+

*Average price for tanks up to 5,000 gallons, not including installation.

  • Pouring concrete costs $5 to $10 per square foot. Some concrete cisterns are pre-cast, while others are cast on site. Installers coat and seal the concrete to make it suitable for water collection.

  • Corrugated steel cisterns require on-site assembly and a vinyl bladder lining. Non-corrugated steel cisterns are typically preassembled.

  • Fiberglass tanks are prefabricated and costly to transport due to their size.

  • Wood cisterns rot over time unless lined.

Rainwater harvesting system to collect and store water for gardening.
Rainwater harvesting system to collect and store water for gardening.

Rain barrel cost

A rain barrel costs $80 to $1,700, depending on the material. Recycled plastic barrels are the most affordable, while stainless steel rain barrels cost the most. Rain barrels must be durable, heavy-grade, non-translucent material to withstand the elements and to prevent algae growth from light penetration.

Rain barrel prices by material
Material Average price* Size (gallons)
Oak $150 – $300 50 – 60
Polyethylene $100 – $500 50 – 200
Recycled plastic $80 – $120 50 – 200
Steel / metal $500 – $1,700  90 – 200

*Not including installation.

Rainwater catchment or collection system cost breakdown

Installing a rainwater catchment system costs $1.50 to $7.00 per gallon of storage, depending on the system type and use. A small system for outdoor watering requires minimal labor and materials. Underground systems, wet systems, and systems connected to household plumbing for indoor water use cost the most.

Rainwater collection system cost breakdown
Factor Average cost
Harvesting system & materials $100 – $15,500
Installation labor $200 – $2,400
Piping installation $1,200 – $8,000
Excavation* $1,000 – $5,000
Trenching* $500 – $1,200
Lawn regrading* $500 – $5,000

*Not all projects require excavation, trenching, or regrading.

The following factors affect the total cost of installing a rainwater collection system:

  • Tank materials – Polyethylene cisterns are the cheapest option. Stainless steel and fiberglass tanks cost the most.

  • Size – Rainwater tanks range from 50 to 10,000+ gallons. The larger the tank, the more labor, equipment, and materials needed to install it. The roof or catchment area size determines the rainwater harvesting potential.

  • System type – Installation requirements depend on whether the system is above ground, underground, wet, or dry, and whether the water is for landscape watering or indoor use.

    • Excavation costs $1,000 to $5,000 on average to dig a hole for an underground cistern.

    • Leveling or regrading a yard costs $500 to $5,000 to create a level surface for an above ground tank.

    • Underground piping costs $1,200 to $8,000 or $8 to $15 per linear foot installed for a "wet" cistern system or for overflow and distribution piping.

    • Installing a water filtration system costs $4,000 to $12,000 to treat the water for indoor use.

  • Labor – Labor rates are typically higher in major cities than in smaller, rural towns.

  • DIY vs. pro install – Installing a 55-gallon rain barrel next to the home is a straightforward DIY project. Hiring a certified professional is best when installing a larger system with more complex piping and components.

  • Geographical location –Some areas offer rebates or tax incentives for rainwater collection system installation.

  • Permits / inspections –Most cistern system installations require one or more permits and inspections.

  • Add-ons – Extra features to like gutter protection or water distribution systems increase the total installation cost.

Rainwater collection system components prices

Most homes already have some components of a rooftop rainwater collection system. The home's roof is the collection surface. Gutters and downspouts make up the conveyance system to channel the water. Water filtration and storage are the remaining pieces needed for a complete system.

Rainwater collection system component prices
Component Average price
Collection surface (roof) $5,700 – $16,000*
Conveyance system (gutters/downspouts/piping) $750 – $2,300*
Pre-storage filtration $30 – $300
Post-storage filtration & disinfection $350 – $2,400
Pump (optional) $100 – $800
Water storage tank $80 – $12,000 

*Including installation.

  • Pre-storage filtration options include downspout filters and first-flush diverters:

    • Filters remove debris before the water enters the storage tank.

    • First-flush devices divert the first batch of rainwater away from the storage tank as it contains the most contaminants and sediment.

  • After-storage treatment requirements depend on the collected water's intended use. Water for landscaping and gardening requires less treatment than water intended for drinking or other potable uses.

  • The cost for pipes and fittings depends on the system type, the distance between the roof and the storage tank, and whether including a water distribution system.

  • Roof replacement costs $5,700 to $16,000 for an average home. Avoid wood shingles, copper, lead flashing, and biocide-treated roofing. These materials have a higher water contaminant potential.

  • Gutters replacement costs $6 to $17 per linear foot. Choose a half-round gutter style for the best water flow.

Rainwater harvesting system installation costs

Rainwater harvesting system installation costs depend on the system type and existing site conditions. Gutters may already be suitable for rainwater collection. Small, passive systems do not typically require a pump and need only the piping from the downspout to the barrel top.

Rainwater harvesting system installation costs
Factor Average installed cost
Gutters $750 – $2,300
Pump (per pump) $150 – $1,200 
Water pipes $100 – $8,000

Additional installation costs may include:

Rainwater recycling system maintenance costs

Rainwater harvesting system maintenance costs $750 to $1,000+ per year for a routine cistern system maintenance, including bi-annual inspections, roof washing, and filter cleaning. Repairs and infrequent maintenance needs like system flushes and tank sediment removal add about $100 per year.

Rainwater catchment system maintenance typically includes:

  • Keeping gutters clean – Check the gutters and downspouts at least twice per year.

  • Maintaining the landscapeTree trimming costs $200 to $1,800 per tree, depending on the size. Removing overhanging branches prevents excessive debris accumulation.

  • Keeping filters clean – Check and clean the filters quarterly. Replace filters and UV sterilizer bulbs per the manufacturers' recommendations or earlier if needed.

  • Flushing the system – Perform a system flush and remove water tank sediment as needed, typically every 3 years.

  • Repairing parts as needed – Pump replacement costs $100 to $800 before labor. Most pumps need repairing or replacing after 3 to 5 years.

Rainwater system FAQs

Do I need a permit or approval to install a rainwater collection system?

You may need a permit to install a rainwater collection system, depending on your location and the system size and type. Some states require a permit while others have collection amount limits and use restrictions. Check state and local regulations for compliance guidelines.

Is a cistern or a barrel better for rainwater collection?

A barrel is better for small-scale rainwater collection or for homeowners with limited space, interested in a low-cost setup. Rain barrels hold 55 to 200 gallons, depending on the size. A cistern is a rain barrel on a larger scale, with some units holding up to 20,000 gallons.

Cistern and barrel pros and cons
System Pros Cons
Cistern
  • More water storage
  • Installed underground or above ground, close to or away from the house
  • Potentially replaces potable water use for landscaping
  • Expensive initial investment
  • Larger footprint
  • Requires structural support if over 5,000 gallons
  • Requires professional installation
Barrel
  • Cheaper than a cistern
  • Smaller footprint
  • DIY-friendly
  • Holds less water
  • Above ground only
  • Must be close to the house

Can a rainwater collection system save me money?

Yes, a rainwater collection system can save you money by reducing municipal water use for landscaping, gardening, and car washing. Rainwater may also be used for drinking and indoor tasks when properly filtered and treated. Most homeowners can save about 1,300 gallons per year using rain barrels.

Getting quotes from rainwater harvesting system installers

Before hiring a rainwater harvesting system installer, be sure to:

  • Ask for recommendations from family or friends how have rainwater collection systems.

  • Browse their reviews on HomeGuide and Google.

  • Only hire a company that is licensed, bonded, and insured.

  • Look for members of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) or professionals with an American Society of Sanitary Engineering (ASSE) Series 21000 Rainwater Catchment System Personnel certification.

  • Get a detailed estimate in writing before the project starts.

  • Avoid choosing the company with the lowest bid as quality may suffer.

  • Never pay in full before the installation begins.

Questions to ask

  • What experience to you have installing rainwater harvesting systems?

  • Do you have a portfolio of past projects?

  • Can you provide references with contact information?

  • How long will the installation take?

  • How long should the system last?

  • Is the collected safe to drink?

  • Where will you divert the overflow water to?

  • What maintenance is required after installation?

  • Is there a warranty? If so, what does it include?

  • Do you recommend a first-flush diverter? If not, why not?