The ongoing drought may make rain barrels seem like a waste of space, but did you know that you could have filled an entire barrel just with the rain we received on the first rainy day of the season?
It’s true – it takes only one inch of rain on an average-sized roof to fill a 1,000-gallon tank, and most rain barrels only hold about 50 to 55 gallons.
That means that each of us could have filled multiple barrels just with the rain we have received so far this year. This is one reason so many Southern Californians are installing rain barrels as part of their efforts to conserve water and lower their environmental impact.
Rain barrels are not the only way to harvest rain water; however, they provide an efficient, convenient method for rain collection that requires very little effort on your part. Once they are installed, there is very little maintenance, which makes this a simple, nearly effortless way to take a step towards a greener lifestyle.
The best way to install a rain barrel for maximum efficiency is to reroute one of your downspouts to deliver the water from your gutters into your rain barrel. You can also connect a series of rain barrels together to collect even more water from a single downspout. However, you can start harvesting rainwater even before you get around to directing your downspout into your barrel system.
I bought my first rain barrel last year and decided to simply set it under a corner of my roof line where I usually have a steady stream of water. It rained later that day and, by the next morning, the barrel was too heavy to move. We got a little more rain that day, and my 55-gallon rain barrel was completely full. So that shows just how easy it is to capture 55 gallons of water that can then be used around your house and property.
The first step, of course, is to purchase and install a rain barrel or rain barrel system. If you would like to get a better idea of your catchment potential, The Ecology Center has a handy guide to help you determine the amount of water you can collect from your roof and how many barrels you may want to add to your system.
10 Ways to Use Rainwater from Rain Barrels
Once you have your system installed and begin harvesting rainwater, here are 10 ways you can use it as part of your water conservation efforts:
1. If you still have a natural grass lawn, you can reduce its water consumption at least a little by irrigating it with rain barrel water.
2. You can also use your harvested water to provide water for a drip system that irrigates non-food plants.
3. Use your rainwater to irrigate trees that do not produce food.
4. Use reclaimed water to water houseplants and flowers.
5. Rinse your recyclable cans and bottles with rainwater instead of water from the tap.
6. Spray down walkways, decks, driveways and patios with reclaimed water.
7. Use recycled water to fill your toilet tanks to flush your toilet.
8. Rinse down dog houses, sheds and other exterior surfaces with harvested rainwater.
9. Wash your car with rainwater – and get extra points if you park it on your lawn or near other plants that can be irrigated with the water as you wash it.
10. If you replaced your natural grass lawn with artificial turf, you can use reclaimed rainwater for the occasional spraying off it needs to continue looking clean. You can also use rainwater mixed with vinegar in a spray bottle to spray down areas your pets use as a restroom.
Now…you probably noticed that I did not mention some obvious uses for water, such as drinking, filling your dog’s water bowl and irrigating your vegetable garden. While there are some studies that show it is safe to use collected rainwater for these purposes, it requires special care to minimize risks and it is generally considered best to avoid these uses. If you are interested in watering plants grown for food with harvested rainwater, read this fact sheet published by Rutgers, which includes best practices for doing this.
For the most part, it is best to use potable water for drinking, filling water dishes for animals, and irrigating plants and trees grown for food. At the same time, you can increase your water conservation efforts by using your collected rainwater for some of the purposes mentioned above.
How do you use water from your rain barrels? Let us know in the comments below!
The Davis Group
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