If you’re a gardener or someone who likes to keep the lawn looking green, you already know that one of your main concerns (particularly during summer) is water usage. If you rely on a municipal water supply, the costs to keep your yard and garden healthy can add up quickly depending on the size of the areas you need to water. Factors such as living in a dry region, an area with drought-prone summers, or within a community that restricts hose watering for conservation purposes can further impact the ability to adequately water gardens and landscaping.
For these reasons, a rain barrel may be a wise investment and one that can harvest water from a virtually untapped source: your roof. Depending on the square footage of your roof area, and the amount of average rainfall in your region, you can potentially harvest between hundreds and thousands of gallons of rainwater each year. Generally speaking, one inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof will yield 600 gallons of water! The potential for harvesting large quantities of water is available for even the most modest sized house. There are calculators available online, such as this one, to help you determine your rain water harvesting potential.
In simple terms, a rain barrel is a large vessel, typically averaging around 40 or 50 gallons (although the range of available sizes is quite impressive), that is connected to your roof usually via the existing gutters and downspouts. The rain water that falls on the roof is directed to the rain barrel instead of to the downspout. The collected water remains in the barrel until ready to be used, and is released through a spigot or other opening near the bottom. In an average summer thunderstorm, rain barrels will often fill up quickly. For this reason, a series of connected rain barrels can increase efficiency and municipal water conservation. You may also choose to collect water from just one area of your roof (i.e. just behind your garage roof) or from the entire roof surface–the options and configurations can be personalized to suit your needs and space constraints.
Once collected in the rain barrel, the water can be used to fill watering cans, connected to low pressure soaker hoses running to the garden or lawn, or even connected to a solar-powered pump to direct water with pressure around the yard. The water collected in rain barrels is considered soft water and is very good for watering gardens, lawns and landscaping because it does not contain the chemicals added to most municipal water supplies, such as chlorine and fluoride. However, because the water collected in rain barrels is non-potable and may contain sediment from your roof (asphalt debris, bird droppings, etc.), it is best to always wash vegetables before consumption if you plan to water edible plants with your collected rain water.
Rain barrels come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. Ranging from elegant pottery and metal type rain barrels, to more utilitarian plastic containers (often re-purposed from other uses), there is bound to be a rain barrel that meets every homeowners’ needs and tastes. Various types of rain barrels can be found online and often in larger garden centers and nurseries. In some communities, the municipal department of public works or water department offer discounted rain barrels to its constituents, so check there first. To save even more money, there are several online sources for do-it-yourself rain barrel construction, like this site.
Provided that there is a suitable level area to install a rain barrel, and that you install the barrel high enough so that your favorite watering can can fit under the spigot easily, a rain barrel can be tucked away out of sight or included as a highlight among your landscaping. As long as a few essential features are also installed–like screens and covers to keep bugs and children out, overflow opening, shut-off valve for winter months, and an easy to use spigot–rain barrels are something that every yard can accommodate.
To learn more about rain barrels and how they can augment your own household conservation efforts, visit some of these sites:
Copyright (c) 2011-2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved.