If you are looking for a quick and easy way to decrease the environmental footprint of your yard or garden, try installing a rain barrel. Rain barrels are placed in your yard alongside the house and connect to any of the gutter downspouts connected to your roof or garage to collect water runoff from rain events.
Rain barrels are easy to install, come in lots of different sizes, varieties and colors and can be purchased for around $100. There are also plenty of DIY options! You can find rain barrels online, or order directly from your municipality or water reclamation district. Many municipalities even offer incentives or discounted pricing to help alleviate the stormwater runoff burden in the community.
Before purchasing a rain barrel, it is important to check with your state and local municipality to ensure they are allowed for use. In some areas there are restrictions for collecting rainwater, such as limiting the amount of water that is able to be collected on a property, but often times, rainwater harvesting is actually encouraged.
One of the great things about rain barrels is that many have already been repurposed from another use. Upcycled rain barrels are food grade and were previously used in the food transport industry, carrying food items such as pickles or peppers. Purchasing an upcycled rain barrel for your home is a great way to reuse materials and keep plastic out of the landfill.
What are the benefits of using a rain barrel?
1. Rainwater is good for your plants
Rainwater is naturally oxygenated and free of additives such as fluoride and chlorine. Plants love this stuff! Water your garden and lawn with collected rainwater to keep your plants healthy and happy even throughout drought-like summer conditions. Prop your barrel up on a stand or some bricks or pavers to allow gravity to be on your side when emptying the barrel. Adding mosquito netting will help make sure bugs don’t make your barrel their home.
2. Save money
Rainwater is free! When you use the collected rainwater to water your garden or even to wash your car, you are saving money on your water bill. The average American will spend around $800 each year on water for their home, and 30 percent of household water usage occurs outside watering lawns and gardens.
Collecting, storing and using rainwater for outdoor water needs keeps money in your pocket. Add an additional barrel to your yard to save even more. Barrels can be placed next to each other and connected to accommodate overflow and to store double the water at any given time. Having the ability to store extra water can be beneficial during times of drought or in areas where there is naturally less frequent rainfall. Multiple barrels can also be placed on opposite sides of the house to make access to water easier.
3. Keep our waterways clean
Water runoff from rain events collects pollutants such as fertilizers, salts, oils from roadways and other contaminants as it travels through the system. The water carrying these contaminants will eventually make its way into our freshwater rivers, creeks and lakes, degrading water quality and wildlife habitat. Collecting rainwater in barrels reduces runoff, helps maintain clean waterways and alleviates stress on water treatment centers.
4. Reduce flooding and prevent erosion
After a storm, do you notice pools of water collecting in your yard, street, or neighborhood? In the usually dry cul-de-sac in our neighborhood, the residents can practically canoe in resulting lake after a big rainstorm because water collects and has no place to go. Collecting rainwater from your roof and storing it to use later will help alleviate the surge in water flowing through the sewer system at any one time and prevent flooding. Heavy flows of water also have the potential to erode the landscape in your yard or in the community. Collecting rainwater before it has the chance to create erosion helps to protect natural landscapes and built-up infrastructure.
How to get started
To get started, contact your local municipality, water reclamation district, or local environmental non-profit organizations to find out if there are rain barrel programs offering discounts in your area. Ordering upcycled barrels online is another great option where you can choose your barrel style and color to fit into your house aesthetic, but these options could be a bit more pricey.
If you are feeling up for more of a challenge, you can search out a guide to make your own rain barrel. This will require the purchase of the barrel and multiple accessories such as spigots, lids, downspout connecters and mosquito netting, and assembly will be required. Pre-made barrels will come fully equipped with everything you need to get started. You will simply need to put all the items in place to make your barrel ready for the next rain.
Live in an apartment or looking to collect rainwater on a smaller scale? Here is a great way to create your own rainwater catchment system without jumping into the full-scale system.