A rain barrel is a large tank with a spigot that sits under a home’s gutter downspout in order to collect rainwater that comes off the roof. Rain barrels can be made on your own for a few dollars, or can be purchased for around $50 to $100.
While rainwater collected in a rain barrel may not be safe to drink, it can be used in multiple other ways- from watering plants to washing down cars. Barrels help conserve potable water supplies. The treatment and distribution of safe drinking water requires a lot of energy and creates greenhouse gases. Nearly four percent of our nation’s power goes into water supply and treatment facilities.
Rain barrels help to reduce the impact of runoff and flooding. When water rushes off of rooftops, it travels onto paved surface and into storm drains, picking up harmful pollutants like animal waste, trash, and chemicals along the way. Experts believe that runoff is the number one cause of water pollution in the U.S.
When looking to buy a rain barrel, first check with local water agencies to learn about any rain barrel subsidies or rebates in your area. Rain barrels are made from a variety of materials, from durable stainless steel to fiberglass and recycled plastic. Because rain barrels hold 50-plus gallons of water, the barrel should be durable to ensure that it is both child- and animal-proof.
Rain barrels can be topped with a fine-mesh screen which will keep out insects and debris. Some rain barrels come with an overflow valve that kicks in when the barrel reaches capacity. However, you can link several barrels together in order to harvest even more rainwater. An average rainstorm can fill one 60-gallon rain barrel within an hour. Look for barrels with an outlet for attaching a linking hose if you’re interested in linking rain barrels together.
To maintain your rain barrel, check them regularly for vegetation and debris. Empty and clean out the barrel at least once a year to remove sediment. If mosquitoes are a problem, consider using a mosquito dunk or donut. If the weather gets below freezing, drain the barrel to protect it from the freezing temperatures.