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According to the EPA, the average U.S. household uses 320 gallons of water per day, 30% of which accounts for outdoor water usage, including watering lawns and gardens. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day.
You can help conserve water usage by incorporating water-wise practices into your daily life. Installing a rain barrel is a great place to start! Rain barrels are an inexpensive, simple way to reduce run-off and conserve water.
We’ve put together four simple steps to help you install a rain barrel in your yard!
Rain barrels come in countless shapes and sizes to suit your needs. You can purchase a ready-made rain barrel or choose a do-it-yourself option. Some communities offer rainwater barrels at reduced rates so check with your local town office before purchasing one. The city of Newark, NJ is offering its residents free rain barrels. Click here to learn more and fill out a participation form.
If you live in a location with limited space, consider a 55-gallon barrel. If you have a larger space with multiple garden/flower beds, 100+ gallons of rain storage may be better for you.
If you’re undecided, our resident rain barrel expert, Environmental Scientist Pat Rose, recommends making your own barrel using a recycled 55-gallon drum. He notes, however, that it is important to never use a barrel that was previously used for chemical storage. “Food grade” barrels are the best option. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the inside of the barrel multiple times before use – many food grade products contain sugar which can attract unwanted insects. Please note, each barrel will need to contain at least 3 holes, including:
For detailed instructions, check out this video from Snohomish Conservation District:
Rain barrels should be placed directly under gutter downspouts to best capture rainwater. Choose an easy-to-access downspout location that is also conveniently located to the areas in your yard that you like to water most. You may decide to install a few rain barrels.
Because many gutter downspouts run straight to the ground, you may need to shorten yours by cutting/sawing it so that it flows directly into the rain barrel. A flexible plastic tube can also be attached to the downspout to help direct the flow of water into the barrel if needed.
Rain barrels should be placed high enough off the ground to allow plenty of room for filling a watering can and/or attaching a hose. (See more details in Step 4 below)
A 55-gallon rain barrel can weigh 400+ pounds and be dangerous if it tips over. Therefore, properly preparing the area where your rain barrel will go is a critical step.
You’ll want to ensure that:
It is recommended that the barrel be elevated on a sturdy, flat base. By raising the barrel, you create more water pressure and more vertical space if you want to use a watering can or bucket to collect water.
The easiest way to create a simple base is by using cinder blocks. The cinder blocks can be spray painted to blend in with the foundation of your house or to match the barrel. There are also a variety of pre-fabricated stand options available for purchase online or in your local gardening store.
Here are a few examples:
Make sure your rain barrel has a tight lid or screen to prevent anything from falling in and mosquitoes from breeding. Be sure to periodically clean debris off the lid/screen.
Whether you buy a rain barrel or make your own, be sure yours has an overflow hose to divert excess water away from your house in case the rain barrel fills to capacity before you have a chance to use the water.
Using a rain barrel to collect fresh, free rainwater helps save money AND protects the environment. Collecting water in rain barrels is a fun, affordable and effective way to reduce the amount of run-off flowing into storm drains and waterways. Click here to read more about stormwater management and green infrastructure.
We hope you enjoyed this edition of our DIY blog series. Many thanks to Pat Rose for his valuable input! For another DIY Project, check out our blog about keeping your house plants healthy:
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