During the summer months, we use lots of water outside – whether we’re washing our cars, filling our swimming pools, or watering our gardens. One way to conserve water and to save on a monthly water bill is to collect rainwater in barrels.
Water from the faucet is chemically treated to make it potable, or drinkable. The chemicals used to make this water suitable for your consumptions aren’t the best for your soil. Rainwater, however, is free of these chemical salts and harmful minerals. Collecting rainwater also helps control runoff in areas where excessive water can cause damage, such as near a house foundation.
Before you even begin to make a rain barrel for harvesting rainwater, check your state rainwater harvesting laws and legislation to ensure that it is legal in your area.
There are various reasons that states create laws that are related to alternative water sources, including rainwater collection. Some of these considerations include variations in population, water supply changes, and droughts. Some states encourage rain barrels while others prohibit their use. Even if rainwater harvesting is permitted, states often monitor when, where, and how one can utilize a rain collection system.
Rainwater harvesting: “The act of utilizing a system to collect and use rainwater for outdoor uses, plumbing, and, in some cases, consumption. Rainwater collection or rainwater catchment are other terms used to refer to this practice.”
A rain barrel is a food grade, above-ground storage tank that is typically appropriated for the collection of rainwater from gutter downspouts for later use. Be certain to use a food grade barrel, even if you have no intention of drinking the water enclosed in it. Toxins and chemicals can leach into the ground and surrounding areas if not properly handled.
Rain barrels harvest the rainwater that lands on rooftops during storms so that you can easily water your garden, without using your faucets, during periods of drought. This helps to reduce the water bill, saves on the amount of fossil fuels used to supply the water, and is a healthier option for your plants
Setting Up Your Rain Barrel
After you determine the laws of your state and decide to create your own rain collection system, there are five basic steps towards completion of your rain barrel setup.
First, you will need to have a catchment surface, such as the room of a house, barn, or garage. All of the water that lands on the roof will be captured for later use. One 55-gallon barrel can be filled by the runoff of one inch of rain on 90 square feet of space.
You will need to direct the water from the roof to the barrel. You can utilize your gutters and downspouts, which normally simply deposit rainwater in the yard and in storm sewers.
You’ll need a fine-screen filter to prevent debris and bugs from entering your rain barrel. A basket-type filter is typically used for this step. Another option is to cut the center from the lid and replace it with a mesh window screen.
Of course, you’ll want to have a nice-sized barrel. A 55-gallon drum is perfect, although other sizes may work as well. The barrel should be wide and have a removable lid so that it can easily be cleaned.
Finally, you will need a spigot that you can attach low on the barrel for easy dispensing of the rainwater. Some people add a second spigot higher up on the barrel for use with watering cans or buckets. A hose can be connected directly to the bottom spigot to transfer water directly to your garden plants.
Another optional step can be to include an additional rain barrel to handle the overflow. Near the top of the drum, insert a hose or piece of pipe and connect that to another barrel. As water fills the first barrel and reaches the pipe, it will spill over into the second empty barrel. Or you could lead the pipe back to the downspout to lead the water away.
Harvesting rainwater is not a new idea. It was a means to survive that was passed down through the generations. Today, more and more families are resorting to collecting rainwater as a method of saving both money and energy