Got rain? Collecting and storing rainwater for use during dry months has been around since ancient times. With the rising costs of municipal water and the fact that storm water runoff is an environmental mess, resurrecting this old practice just makes sense. What is a rain barrel? At its simplest, it’s a container placed under a downspout to collect rainwater from the roof.Why install a rain barrel?
- Reduces flooding in the yard
Collecting and storing rainwater means it’s not flooding your yard with water that can’t be quickly absorbed.
- Provides water for plants during drier times
Collected rainwater is perfect for keeping your plants happy during drier times when there is no rain. Plus, you’re not drawing from municipal supplies, saving money and resources.
- Reduces storm water runoff
Perhaps the most important benefit – a rain barrel reduces the amount of storm water runoff that makes it from your roof, across your yard or drive, down the street and into the storm drains, adding to erosion and pollution.
Rain barrels can be as simple as a large drum placed beneath your downspouts. They’re usually fitted with a small screen to keep debris and insects out. You can easily construct your own, or check with your local communities. Many areas have rain barrel programs in place offering discounts or rebates for installing a barrel.
Lawn and garden watering make up over 40% of all household water use during the summer. You can use collected rainwater to water plants, wash your car or even top off your swimming pool. Barring other factors, rainwater is one of the purest sources of water available as it contains no dissolved salts or other minerals and pollutants.
- How much rain will you need to collect?
A deck drip system watering 40 potted plants over the course of a week will use approximately 50 gallons of water. One sprinkler on full-flow for one hour will use approximately 240 gallons. Your needs will vary depending on the size of your yard, types of plants you have and amount of rainfall.
- How’s the water pressure?
That depends. If your barrel is installed on a small platform, with a low-mounted tap you should get a flow of 1 to 2 gallons per minute. That may not be enough to run a sprinkler, but it will fill a hose.
- How quickly will the barrel fill up?
You might be surprised! A little half-inch rainfall collected from just 300-square feet of roof will fill a 55-gallon barrel. Installing multiple barrels, or even a linked system, can give you even more water storage space.
- What about maintenance?
Most barrels will require periodic cleaning. You’ll want to clear any debris from the downspots and ensure the barrel itself is clean inside and out. The best bet is to use a very small amount of an environmentally friend soap, or just a little bit of vinegar – two teaspoons of each per gallo of water is a safe bet.
- What about mosquitos?
Make sure there is a fine screen over your barrel to start with. You can purchase a sealed system that prevents mosquitos from entering your barrels, or you can prevent them by adding a tiny amount of dish soap, vegetable oil or a microbrial larvacide in the barrel.
- Can I use the water on my veggies?
The jury is out on that one. Some say yes, if your roof is free of chemicals, zinc, copper and other potential pollutants. Others say it’s better to be safe than sorry; reserve your rain barrel water for non-edible plants only.