Rain Barrels – A Welcome Addition to the Gutter System

Why would you want a rain barrel?  As consumers of water for various reasons, we should act responsibly concerning our water consumption.  Weather patterns are changing and natural resources such as water are dwindling.  So whatever we can do to save water for essential uses will benefit us all.

 Advantages of Rain Barrels

1.      Will lower your water bill thus saving you money.  According to the U.S. Geographical Survey, the average American uses 80-100 gallons of water a day.  So using a rain barrel will help reduce the demand on the local water supply.

2.       Alternative to tap water for watering lawns, gardens, washing cars and other household chores.  Being that rainwater is devoid of minerals, chlorine, calcium and lime it can actually improve the health of the gardens, lawns and trees.

3.       Rain barrels help reduce erosion of soil, storm water flow, pollution and flooding.

4.       Depending upon where you live, a rain barrel can collect about 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months.  The water can be kept for later use too. 

The fact is during a one-inch rain, 54 gallons of water will fall on 90 square feet of roof which is enough to fill a 55-gallon rain barrel.  The water collected is not considered “drinkable”.  Birds and other animals that access the roof can leave behind bacteria and other disease causing organisms thus contaminating any water that flows over the roof.  But the rain barrel water is safe to use on flowers, lawns and non-edible plants.  It is not generally considered safe to use rainwater accumulated from a roof to water vegetable gardens but if you do so, do not use overhead irrigation or watering as this can contaminate the plants.  And for the same reason you would never wash fruits or vegetables with the water from a rain barrel.

It is recommended to routinely inspect the rain barrel removing any debris that has accumulated on the lid that could block the screen mesh.  The rain barrel should be cleaned from time to time.  One solution for cleaning is 2 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice per gallon of water and 2 teaspoons of castile soap.  Remember, too, that before winter sets in empty the rain barrel and disconnect it from the downspout then preferably store the barrel inside.