Rain Barrels Yield Free Water

August 30, 2017

Everyone loves getting something free. Setting up a rain barrel lets homeowners harvest free water that nature drops on the roof.

Millions of families harvest vegetables from the backyard garden and many bring delicious fresh eggs into the kitchen, gifts from a few hens tended in a coop tucked into the yard. Far too few people harvest the rain that every shower delivers.

Collecting and storing rainwater has been around for thousands of years but recently more Americans are making or buying rain barrels and installing them under gutter downspouts. The concept is simple. Rain tumbling off the roof fills the barrel, where it is safely stored. A week or two later it becomes outstanding water for irrigating tomatoes, filling a chicken waterer or quenching the thirst of a newly planted tree.

The amount of water coming from rain is astonishing. A one-inch rain on one-acre yard totals 27,154 gallons and weighs 113 tons. So, a 1000 square foot roof receives about 6245 gallons from that one-inch rain. A one-tenth inch shower drops 625 gallons on that roof.

Rain barrels can be either home made from plastic or metal barrels or purchased at garden supply stores or online. Typically, they hold 40 to 60 gallons and fill during the lightest shower. Most people install several barrels in tandem so when the first one fills it overflows into the second and then subsequent barrels.

Well-designed rain barrels have a tap near the bottom making it easy to attach a hose.  The top should have a tight lid with an opening positioned under the downspout. It should be covered with mosquito screening to prevent insects from laying eggs in the water. Most people elevate their rain barrel on a wooden stand to keep it a foot or so off the ground. If barrels are connected in a series, the primary barrel receiving downpour water should be slightly higher than its neighbor. Each subsequent barrel should be positioned lower so gravity channels water into it.

Rain barrel water is excellent for irrigating plants, but it’s useful for all sorts of other common backyard needs. Need water for your hens? A rain barrel next to a chicken coop roof provides convenient water for thirsty birds. Get your hands dirty digging in the garden? Just turn on the rain barrel tap and rinse water gushes out. Need a bit of water in a can to wash a paintbrush? The rain barrel is handy. Remember: dispose of paint water properly. Not down a drain or septic system. Google for options.

Rain barrels can be positioned under most roofs.  Metal and asphalt shingle roofs void clean water but be cautious about harvesting water from a wood shake roof. Often shakes have been treated with a toxic chemical to prevent rot. Chemicals could taint water coming off the roof.

Rain barrel maintenance is important but simple. Before freeze up, barrels should be drained and turned upside down to keep them empty through the winter. During hot weather barrels can get slimy inside. Good maintenance involves draining them every month to six weeks and hosing down the interior with tap water.

The Internet is loaded with information on how to make and use and where to purchase rain barrels. They are one of the handiest items to have in a yard.

This article was provided by Winding Pathways, LLC.

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