March 2019 Update:

Rain barrel pickups for 2018 have been completed, but more green infrastructure materials are coming your way in 2019. Read on below to find out how you can sign up in advance for this year’s phase.


  1. What’s the Problem, and Why Does It Matter?
  2. What’s the Solution?
  3. How Can You Help? 
  4. Helpful Resources for Installing Your Rain Barrel
  5. Interested in Learning More?

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

Approximately 40% 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?

NOTE: For the 2018 phase, rain barrels were distributed at pickup events in September and December 2018. For 2019 sign ups, please register using the following information.

To help encourage residents to install rain barrels, the Office of Sustainability’s Green Infrastructure Team partnered with the Metropolitan District (MDC) in 2018 to bring FREE rain barrels (a $110 value!) to Hartford residents. With the help of the Youth Services Corps (YSC) and Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), over 120 rain barrels were distributed among residents from across the city. For photos from our events, check out our twitter page @hartfordclimate. Many thanks to all of our partners at the MDC, OPP, YSC, CIRCA and the Hartford Department of Public Works that helped make this happen.

In 2019, there will be a new round of distributions later this year, so sign up in advance to get your name on the list. Use the form below:

Have Questions? Send us your question using the comment card near the bottom of this page.

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.
  • Want to keep up with program updates and events? Sign up to receive email updates.
  • Interested in implementing other green infrastructure practices? Contact us using the comment card below for more information.

Photos and Video Courtesy of Keney Park Sustainability Project

The 2019 Retain the Rain program is supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Hartford Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is funded in part by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund. The views contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government, or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources.

The 2018 program was sponsored by the Metropolitan District (MDC) and by a grant from the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA). Many thanks for their support!

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

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