South East Rivers Trust (& the Wandle Trust)

Install a water butt? Butt why?


There are so many good reasons to install a water butt…


As the Education and Community Outreach Officer on the SuDS in Sutton’s Schools project, I am often singing the praises of water butts.

A water butt is essentially a large container used to capture and store rainwater. When attached to a downpipe, the water butt collects the rainwater that lands on the roof of a building so it can be used later.  It is this time of year, when rainfall has been scarce, that water butts become really useful.


So why should you have a water butt?


1. To save water (and money). According to Waterwise, if every household in the UK got a standard water butt this would save about 30,000 million litres of water each summer. If your water is metered, you could also save on your bill.


2. To have a convenient source of water for your garden during dry spells (especially when there is a hosepipe ban). Clever installation and use of water butts can ensure you have water for your garden throughout the year without using a single drop from a hosepipe or a tap.


3. To avoid using chemically treated water on plants. Did you know that biologically, rainwater is better for plants than tap water?


4. To save energy. Treating water to drinkable standards and pumping it to households is energy intensive.  Considering plants prefer rainwater, why waste drinking water on plants?


5. To help freshwater ecosystems. The south east of England is seriously water stressed, meaning that the demand for water exceeds the supply.  A lot of our water supply is taken from rivers or the underground reserves that feed them.  The demand for water is higher during dry spells when the flow of rivers may already be dangerously low. So, reducing this demand, increases the health of our rivers.


6. And finally, to reduce flood risk. If installing water butts can save 30,000 million litres of water each summer that means that 30,000 million litres of water could be saved from rushing to the drains when it is raining. This reduces the volume of water in our surface water sewer system and could alleviate areas at risk of surface water flooding.


And that is why I am often singing the praises of the humble water butt. Water butts are one of the many features that can help prevent our drains from becoming overwhelmed during heavy rainfall, and they’re possibly the easiest SuDS measure to install at home. So why not get one yourself?


For more installation information and tips, visit Waterwise at:


For more information about SuDS:


Have any Question or Comment?

4 comments on “Install a water butt? Butt why?

Thanks for this great article. Some great ideas for us keen gardeners on how to keep our gardens hydrated during those hot summer months. One word of caution however, Public Health England and the chaps at Porton Down recently carried out some testing of water butts to find out what was in the water. They discovered that around 95% of the butts tested contained Legionella bacteria in the water. This can cause the deadly Legionnaires disease and is especially dangerous if you’re over 50 or have underlying health issues. There’s plenty of info on the net on how to limit the dangers so it’s worth researching just to be safe.

Jackie Richards

In the really torrential rain that we in u k been having recently (summer 2019 and sept/Oct/nov. 2019) my water butt became full up and the water was pouring out of the top and creating surface water flooding right next to my conservatory. Lucky I was indoors and saw it and so started filling up buckets from butt tap to reduce water coming out of top. My butt has also got a pipe outlet so that if it gets too full water can escape onto my garden but the torrential rain completely overwhelmed the system. It was scary because if I hadn’t been at home I think water would have got into my conservatory from the water butt flooding. In this instance having a water butt seemed to defeat the object really. There is something very strange going on with weather and not just global warming!

I have three water butts and I also distill tap water to purify it for drinking. What i would like to know is: can the water in my water butts be distilled to become pure, clean and safe to drink water?
Please advise.

Jess Mead

Hi Roland, Thanks for getting in touch. The water in a water butt can be used for a number of purposes. It is especially good for watering plants as it doesn’t contain any added chemicals. We would not recommend trying to purify it for drinking water. Runoff picks up any pollutants and contaminants that settle on your roof – air pollution, bird faeces. We are not certain of any method that can be carried out at home that can make this water safe enough for drinking.

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