Rainwater is often treated like a waste product, running off our properties, parking lots and streets to the nearest storm drain. With an annual rainfall of 33” there is a lot of rainwater that gets “wasted.” Rainwater is a precious resource that can be collected and saved for later use with rain barrels or cisterns. The use of rain barrels and cisterns goes back hundreds of years, and they are still a great way to harvest rainwater for later use.
Keep in mind that the average rain barrel is about 55 gallons. A quarter-inch of rain falling on the average home yields over 200 gallons of water! It is estimated that during the hot summer months, the average homeowner uses 40% of the household water in the yard. Capturing rainwater for later use can help reduce your water bill and conserve drinking (potable) water.
The Conservation Foundation sells 55 gallon recycled food grade rain barrels for $85 (including tax). They also offer different Municipal Rain Barrel Programs.
Rain barrels are easy to install.
It is a good idea to put your rain barrel up on a platform made from concrete blocks or deck boards. The added height increases the water pressure if you want to hook up a hose to it and also makes room to put a bucket or watering can under the spigot.
Once you get it up on the platform, measure and cut the downspout. (Keep the cutoff for reattachment in the winter.) Use two elbows or a flexible downspout extender attachment* to direct the water to the top of the barrel. The end of the downspout should be about 2-3” above the top of the barrel. Downspouts can be cut with a hacksaw.
If your rain barrel does not have a hole in the top of it, then cut a hole about 6” x 4” in the top of the barrel, put a bead of clear caulk around the hole and push a piece of window screen into the wet caulk. This will seal the barrel from insects.
An overflow tube can be installed in the side of the barrel near the top, with a hose that will drain in cases of high rainfall. Buy a hose barb from the hardware store. One end can fit a piece of hose or tubing and the other end is threaded. Drill a hole just big enough for the threaded end. Push the threaded end through the hole and secure with a nut on the inside. The hose can be place to run the extra water to a planted area or into another barrel for extra storage.
*These can be purchased at your local hardware store or home center in the gutter section.