Update: Rain barrel pick up events on September 22nd and 24th! Read on for more info, and register below for a free rain barrel if you haven’t already done so. 


  1. What’s the Problem, and Why Does It Matter?
  2. What’s the Solution?
  3. How Can You Help? Receive a free rain barrel!
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Helpful Resources for Installing Your Rain Barrel
  6. Interested in Learning More?

What’s the Problem, and Why Does It Matter?

42% of Hartford’s land area is comprised of impervious surfaces, and much of the remaining area is covered with clay-heavy soils with low infiltration rates. Impervious surfaces prevent rain from being absorbed into the soil underneath, resulting in excess stormwater runoff and causing added burden and stress on the city’s aging infrastructure. Hartford has a 150 year-old combined sewer system, which means that rainwater combined with wastewater can exceed the system’s capacity during storm events, resulting in discharges of untreated wastewater through combined sewer overflows (CSO).

More than 1/2 billion gallons of untreated wastewater overflow to local streams and waterways annually. These discharges impact the Connecticut River’s water quality over a 30 mile distance up to 50 times per year – every time it rains more than 0.25 inches. Other areas that have impaired water quality as a result of these CSOs include: Wethersfield Cove, North Branch Park River, Trout Brook, Goff Brook, among others. In addition, local basements and streets may experience backups and flooding of raw sewage as well.

What’s the Solution?

Green infrastructure (GI) is an alternative approach to stormwater management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle, using water as a resource. Widespread adoption of GI techniques can help reduce the cost of eliminating sewer backups and localized flooding, while providing many co-benefits such as cleaner air, cooler city streets, increased public green space, and enhanced wildlife habitat, all of which improve the quality of urban life. One cost-effective approach to green infrastructure is installing a rain barrel.

Installing rain barrels located in the combined sewer areas of Hartford is a low-cost approach recommended in the EPA Next Steps Memo. Homeowners can separate their roof downspouts from the combined sewer system and redirect roof runoff into a rain barrel, which can be used to water lawns and rain gardens. This approach, which has been successfully implemented by other cities around the country, reduces inputs to the combined sewer system while also absorbing excess runoff.

How Can You Help?

To help encourage residents to install rain barrels, the Office of Sustainability’s Green Infrastructure Team is partnering with the MDC to bring FREE rain barrels (a $110 value!) to Hartford residents. For those interested in receiving a rain barrel (while supplies last), register using the form below (or linked here). Unlike phase 1 of our program, note that Hartford residency is the only requirement. After you fill out the form below, we’ll follow up with a confirmation of your registration.


With of the help of the Youth Service Corps and Our Piece of the Pie, we’re holding two pickup events at the North End Senior Center at 80 Coventry St, Hartford, CT. You’ll find us in the back of the parking lot (see map at the very bottom of this email). Make sure to bring your ID card. If your ID doesn’t have your Hartford address on it, please bring another document with your name and Hartford address (such as a water bill).

You’ll be able to pick up your rain barrel at one of two times:

  • Saturday 9/22 from 9:15AM-10:45AM
  • Monday 9/24 from 5:15PM-6:45PM

Please let us know which day you would prefer (click here). This will help us set up and make your pickup experience as quick and smooth as possible. We may also end up contacting you via phone to ask about your pickup date or as a second form of notification.

SIZING NOTE: The barrels are 2 feet in diameter and 3.25 feet in height. For photos, click here.

P.S. Have more questions? Check out our new FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. How does a rain barrel save me money? Rain barrels capture rainwater, which you can use to do things like water your lawns and gardens or wash your vehicle. During peak summer months, you could save up to 1,300 gallons of water, and using rainwater means that you don’t have to spend more by paying for that water.
  2. When will my rain barrel be ready? We have the rain barrels, and we have set up two pickup dates in September (see details in the previous section). Note that when you pick up your rain barrel, you must have some proof of Hartford residency (ID or mail with your Hartford address on it).
  3. Do you deliver? We do not offer delivery, instead the rain barrels will be available for pickup at the North End Senior Center (80 Coventry St.). The pickup date has not been determined as we’re currently coordinating this work, but we’ll let you know as soon as everything is ready.
  4. How do you install a rain barrel? Installing a rain barrel is a fairly easy Do-It-Yourself task. Check out the Resources section below for more information.
  5. Can you install the rain barrel for me? We do not install rain barrels, but installing a rain barrel is a fairly easy Do-It-Yourself task. Check out the Resources section below for more information.
  6. I rent my home. Can I still sign up? Yes, other than being a Hartford resident, there are no requirements to receive a rain barrel. Note that if you’d like to connect the rain barrel with your home’s roof leaders, you’ll need to receive your landlord’s permission to install the barrel.
  7. Can I have more than one rain barrel? Glad to hear that you’re interested in installing more than one barrel. Currently we’re only providing one barrel per Hartford property, but we’ll write down your preference for another barrel. If there are any extras at the end of the campaign, we’ll give them out based on the order that people signed up.
  8. How big are the rain barrels? The barrels are 2 feet in diameter and 3.25 feet in height. They have a 60 gallon capacity. For photos, click here.
  9. I think I’ve heard of this program when it used to be “Downspout Disconnection.” How are rain barrels different? Thanks for your continued interest in our Retain the Rain program! The first phase of this program was indeed for a “downspout disconnection kit,” which involved having rainwater from your roof watering your lawn and garden. However, unlike the first phase, this second phase offers rain barrels, which is a different technique that captures and stores rainwater, allowing you to save and use the water for later. Also, Hartford residency is the only requirement for this program, unlike the previous phase, which required factors such as specific soil type and gently sloped yards.
  10. When is the last day I can sign up? The last day for sign ups will be the day before our last pickup event on September 24th.
  11. My question isn’t listed here. No worries, just send your question to us using the comment card below.

Helpful Resources For Installing Your Rain Barrel

  • Read the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection brochure or stormwater manual (pages 61-63) for an overview of rain barrels and their benefits.
  • For detailed installation instructions, check out Portland’s informational packet.

Interested in Learning More?

  • This pilot program is designed to address Goal 1 of the water section in the city’s Climate Action Plan, to reduce discharges into sewers and waterways. Read more about Hartford’s other sustainable action goals here.
  • Want to keep up with program updates and events? Sign up here to receive email updates.
  • Interested in implementing other green infrastructure practices? Contact us here for more information.

Photos and Video Courtesy of Keney Park Sustainability Project

This program has been sponsored by the Metropolitan District (MDC) and by a grant from the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA).

About the MDC: The mission of the MDC is to provide our customers with safe, pure drinking water, environmentally protective wastewater collection and treatment and other services that benefit the member towns. More information about the MDC can be found at themdc.org.

About CIRCA: The mission of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) is to increase the resilience and sustainability of vulnerable communities along Connecticut’s coast and inland waterways to the growing impacts of climate change on the natural, built, and human environment. More information about CIRCA can be found at circa.uconn.edu.