Rain Barrels for Rainwater Harvesting

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    It seems crazy that most everyone in the USA waters their outdoor plants and washes their cars with pristine, potable drinking water.  We live in the city and all of our water is treated, which must take resources and energy.  And of course it takes energy to distribute this pristine water to our homes, where we use some of it to water our lawns and things like this.  To me this seems more than a little silly. 

    My wife and I purchased rain barrels from our city's sewage and water district fro about $25 USD each 2 years ago.  Each barrel holds roughly 50 gallons of rain water.  One half of our roof funnels into the downspout that feeds these two barrels.  The barrels are linked together, so when the first one fills up it then overflows into the second.  When the second fills up, it just overflows onto our driveway.  

    Here are a few tips:

    1.  I installed the first barrel on concrete blocks stacked two high.  The second barrel is on blocks that are stacked one high. These barrels get very, very heavy when they are filled up, so having a solid base for them is necessary (it is very unsafe if they aren't on a solid platform, especially when considering the safety of children).

    2.  We use watering cans to tap the water from the barrels for watering our vegetables and plants.  We never water our grass.  Having the barrels propped up on concrete blocks allows us to place the watering cans underneath the spigots at the bottom of the barrels.

    3.  Each barrel has a plastic screen on top.  This prevents debris from the roof from entering the water.  It also prevents insects like mosquitos from breediing in the water.

    4.  In a good hard rain, both barrels will fill up in about 15-20 minutes!  This is something that was absolutely amazing to me! Bear in mind that this one downspout funnels the water from half of our roof space on our bungalow style home.  We actually have quite a bit of roof funneling into this one downspout.

    5.  Installing rain barrels has encouraged other neighbors to either install barrels or at least consider installing them.  I know of two neighbors near us who now have barrels.  I like that they are in a visible location because they get people talking and thinking (my wife still doesn't like them from the aesthetic point of view, but she has come to accept them).

    6.  Throughout the hot Wisconsin summers, we rarely have to use our municipal water for our outdoor plants! Typically speaking we harvest enough rain water to never need our spigots.  But there still are times where we run out of rain water and we have to use our spigot.  I'm thinking about installing 1-2 more barrels so we can collect even more rain water.

    7. In the winter time I disconnect the barrels and store them in the garage.  I then divert the water from our roof into the connector to our city's storm water system.  I don't like to do this, but it is my only option right now.  If I let the water in the winter drain onto our drive, it creates a sheet of ice that is ridiculous.  Our driveway was replaced a few years ago prior to my learning about water conservation, and I'm still kicking myself for not installing a drainage tile system under the drive for water diversion.  Oh, well...you live and learn.

     Good luck with your rain barrel system!

    Solution Type: Habit





    Solution's CC Effect

    1,000.0 gallons of water
    Enough to fill 20 bathtubs.
    0.0 kWh of energy
    0.0 pounds of waste
    0.0 pounds of emissions
    $20 dollars
    Enough to pay for 10 cups of coffee
      View 4 Comments | Add New Comment

    alorenk says : check out Japanese style rain chains vs downspouts...water runs down a chain for a bit, then drips into barrel. The sound and smell of dripping water attracts/supplies birds.

    Posted 01/02/09 at 12:04 PM


    Veshengro says :

    May I point out that, according to information that we have, the harvesting of rainwater is illegal in a great number of federal states of the Unites States and I would suggest that you check your local ordinaces for this before you do it. Some people seriously have run foul of their laws doing this.


    While I know that this is rather stupid and the difference in the case in now here in the UK where, in fact, every new house being built has to have a raiwater harvesting tank installed underground. 


    I wrote about some of the legal problems in the USA in the Green (Living) Review and here is the link@ http://greenreview.blogspot.com/2008/02/rainwater-harvesting-in-usa.html




    Posted 06/07/08 at 05:20 PM


    Leffie says :

    I purchased our rain barrel last year.  The local environment club makes them and sells them yearly.  They cost a lot, at $80 for an 80 gallon barrel, however I think its worth it.  I use it to water my vegetables and flowers as much as possible.

    My neighbour used to hook a long plastic pipe onto the end of the downspout, and lay it down the side of the house towards the street.  The water from my house would pool at the base of theirs, causing their basement to crack and leak.  That's what prompted our purchase, and they were extremely happy that we did that. 

    I'd like to get more, or think of a better solution to capture the water.



    Posted 06/03/08 at 11:59 PM


    Climate_epopguy says : Been doing it for years. Back on the farm we had a 1500 gal cistern and every home should have one. Many homes around here have sump pumps-we pump into the cistern. Round figures for estimating the size you need: 60 gal of water makes for 1 inch on 100sq ft (10x10) for more calculations <a href="http://www.nationalwatercenter.org/rain_calcs.htm">Rain Calcs</a>

    Posted 05/28/08 at 10:07 AM