San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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September 9th, 2009
City offers rain barrel rebate


The City of San Marcos is offering a new rebate program to help residents save water through the use of rain barrels.

San Marcos single-family residential water customers can receive up to a $50 rebate for purchasing and installing one or two qualifying rain barrels per home.

The rain barrels that qualify have to be new, finished rain barrels that are used solely for the purpose of collecting rain water. They must have a capacity of 100 gallons or less. The barrels must be screened or covered to restrict accessibility and must be ultraviolet-resistant to prevent algae growth.

“We’ve had a lot of questions about rainwater harvesting this year, and I think it’s the perfect time to implement a program,” said Jan Klein, Conservation Coordinator for the City of San Marcos. “People are very concerned about the drought and want to do everything they can to conserve our precious water resources. Even a small rain can result in a lot of harvested rainwater that can be used later for watering plants.”

According to the drought rules in San Marcos, rain water is considered an alternative water source and is exempt from drought restrictions.

For more information on the rain barrel rebate program, visit or contact Klein at (512) 393-8310.

(Editor’s note: The above has been revised to say the eligible rain barrels must have a capacity of 100 gallons or less.)

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15 thoughts on “City offers rain barrel rebate

  1. Good idea…. but, 50 gallons or less? Surely this is a misprint. If not, the city needs to take another look at this and offer rebates for rainwater collection barrels of 50 gallons or more.

  2. That’s a nice gesture from the City. My wife and I have thought about rainwater harvesting for some time now.

    I hope the barrels that people can find in that price range work well…most of the ones I have seen that aren’t eyesores run 55-60 gallons (too big for the program) and cost $150-200.

    I just hope it doesn’t end up like that toilet trade in program last year where I got that fancy dual-flush model that leaks all the time 🙁

  3. The size limit is incorrectly stated. Originally it was set to 100 gallons or less. The limit has now been removed. I double checked this information with Jan Klein. Thank you to the City for looking into proactive and financially smart ways to tackle our water issues.

  4. Thanks for the clarification, Kyle. If there is no limit on capacity, does that mean that those who have large rain collection systems can get the rebate as well? The county needs to get back on the ball and incentivize rain-water collection in a meaningful way.

  5. Yes, thanks Kyle. I know the one we wanted was going to be in the 60-gallon range, so it’s nice to know that it would be eligible for the rebate…..and I sure wish I had bought the thing a week ago!

  6. From my research, the average family would need about 10,000 gallons of collected water to not run out in a normal, short-term drought. Discussing the collection of 50 or a hundred gallons is a fairly useless activity. While I applaud the idea behind this new program, it is wholly inadequate to have much an effect to the usage of city water. The city should be promoting significant rain-water collection and the use of photovoltaics and wind generators to reduce electrical demand. These are conservation ideas that might make a significant difference.

  7. Most use the collected water for exterior non-potable uses–water treatment for consumption on-site is a complicated, expensive endeavor. Relatively few people are capable of going “off the well/pipe,” but many are interested in landscape uses. The smaller rain barrels work on the premise that every little bit helps, and are great for people that lack space for larger containers. We bought one because we did not have convenient water for our patio containers. Rainwater is naturally soft and better for plants. You are correct in that the city needs to encourage alternative on-site energy production (along with conservation methods like geothermal heat pumps, etc.).

  8. Lamar, you are correct that for someone to supply the full use of a house, 50 (or 100) gallons isn’t much of a dent. I also agree that the city needs to promote full rainwater collection for new developments (and PV for electricity). However, the 100 gallons I have does make a difference for landscaping/vegetables. If it actually rains occasionally I don’t need to use city water for a small garden. Even this year, I was able to water about half of my vegetables and only ran out twice. I have friends who supply their whole house through cachement, and even they had to buy water once or twice this year. I wish this rebate was around two years ago…

  9. Tank Town has 550 gallon water walls, fiberglass. These are cool and can fit through a fence gate.

  10. If this program catches on and 1,000 residents get the $50 dollar rebate for purchasing rain collection barrels = $50,000 of city funds (unless the program is grant-funded). If San Marcos averages 84 rainy days per year X 1000 residents with barrels X 100 gallons/barrel = 8,400,000 gallons of water potentially saved. 8,400,000 X $0.00618/gallon of city water (at bulk rate) = $51,192. Somebody should check my math, it looks like the program could theoretically pay for itself!

  11. As a history major, I would just point out that your math assumes the barrels would be empty at each rain when rainy days usually follow each other (like this week) and thus the barrels are at least partly full and cannot accept their capacity each rain. You also credit the bulk rate purchase price the city utility pays as a savings without accounting for the amount the city would collect if that much were billed to the user. You also assume a 100 gallon barrel which I think exceeds the maximum under the program. It may be a worthwhile program, but it doesn’t pay for itself.

  12. I don’t understand what is gained by having a maximum size. I would expect a minimum size, to encourage people to install large systems.

    It is good to see us moving in this direction though. I’d love to see some solar power rebates.

  13. Yes, my example makes many assumptions that favor this program.

    If you exchange the phrase “city funds” with “our taxes” and add the phrase “of our water bills” to the end of “$51,192” my point may be clear: the program isn’t a waste of money from a taxpayer viewpoint. If its assumed the barrels last more than a year, then even more money & water are conserved. Also, the city probably doesn’t make any money on the water utility, if so, then any water conserved saves the city (and residents) money. The program has the potential to pay for itself using a variety of metrics, even if the chances are slim.

    The water walls mentioned above are neat, but for the same price a 2500 gallon tank can be purchased down the street from Tank Town at any of the three feed stores. I believe that rain collection tanks are tax free, I don’t know about the barrels.

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