Press release

No ifs, it’s time for water butts

With summer on its way it's time for gardeners to think about saving rainwater ready for their garden's thirstiest months.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

More people than ever are getting involved with growing their own food but fruit and vegetables need plenty of water. With summer on its way it’s time for gardeners to think about saving rainwater ready for their garden’s thirstiest months.

In an average summer gardeners could harvest nearly 640 litres of rainwater from a 7ft by 5ft shed - which, depending on the weather, could keep up to 50 tomato plants happy for three months. The sooner you get a water butt installed, the more you can save.

Agriculture and Food Minister Jim Paice said:

“More and more people are growing their own fruit and vegetables and, in the process, learning about where their food comes from and what’s in season. A water butt is a simple investment which can reduce the impact your garden has on the environment.

“We know that many parts of the country are increasingly short of water so saving your own helps everyone.”

Many local councils have schemes to provide subsidised water butts, helping gardeners to save water and reduce their metered water bills.


The average summer rainfall for England and Wales from 1971-2000 was 195.8mm, National Climate and Information Centre at the Met Office. Ten mm of water falling on a flat  area of one square metre is equal to ten litres of water, meaning that in an average summer you could harvest 195.8 litres per square metre. A 7ft by 5 ft shed covers an area of 3.25 square metres so would intercept 636 litres of rain. 

Depending on the weather a tomato plant will need between 0.14 to 1.8 litres of water per day, meaning that in the very hottest possible summer a plant would need a maximum of 166 litres over three months, in the coolest summer a plant would need 12.88 litres during the same period.

Further information

Published 22 April 2011