Rain Barrels Were Valued in the Past:
Are rain barrels a new concept for water conservation? No way! The idea of capturing and storing rainwater is over 1,000 years old. And the value of collecting and transporting water was understood and practiced as far back as the Roman Empire. According to Wikkipedia, the combined aqueducts of ancient Rome supplied about 300 million gallons of water a day. More recently, people have used cisterns as a way to collect water for watering gardens, plants, washing clothes, and even drinking.
A rain barrel is the main component of a rainwater harvesting system that utilizes a downspout from the roof of a house or building. The average U.S. household uses 146,000 gallons of water per year with up to 50% of that water going towards landscaping during the summer months. By collecting rainwater, you can save energy, water, and money – as much as $600 a year! Rain barrels also help reduce erosion and storm water runoff and increase water quality. Rain barrels were of value in the past and are of great value today!
If you're interested, click here to learn about how the Roman Empire declined because of inadequate fresh water due to infrequent rains.
Rain Barrels are Valued for Reducing Storm-Water Runoff:
Runoff from impervious surfaces (such as roads, roofs, parking lots, sidewalks, etc.) adds up.
Too much water in the streams erodes their channels, clogs waterways downstream, and destroys plant and animal habitats.
Also, excess runoff from yards and gardens can wash things like lawn fertilizer into the stream - causing fish-kills from nutrient overloads.
And excess runoff from driveways and roads picks up petroleum spills and carries them into our water supply. The use of rain barrels
reduces the amount of storm water runoff – and the damage that it causes.
Rain Barrels are Valued for Wise Watering:
Now’s a great time to use some simple, time-tested ways to conserve water – without depriving yourself. Rather than cutting back on your use of water, you
can “repurpose” the free rainwater, and reduce your need for expensive municipal or well water. If you don’t capture the free rain that falls on your roof, it
will cost you money for your future watering needs. And rain barrels are becoming more widespread, as homeowners are discovering the pleasures of having a
guilt-free supply of water on hand at all times. Since rain barrels come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and costs, there is surely one that will suit your needs.
As part of a wise-watering plan, watering during mornings and evenings is suggested, because you lose a lot of water through evaporation if you water during
the middle of the day. And you can almost eliminate this loss from evaporation by the use of drip irrigation – any time of the day.
Rain Barrels are Valued to Save Money, Conserve Water, and Protect our Rivers:
The typical homeowner uses about 40% to 50% of their total household water use just for their lawn and garden. Instead of paying for this water on your utility bill, or on the electric bill for a well pump, you can capture the water from your roof, store it, anduse it for your gardening needs. And, rainwater is oxygenated, non-chlorinated, low in minerals, and warmer – which is better for plantsand better for the environment.
Rain barrels are Valued as a Simple Solution to Natural Resource Problem:
Everyone knows that that rainwater is a renewable natural resource. In fact, it is never lost. It just changes its state (i.e. water, ice, and vapor) and its location (cloud, rain,stream, river, and ocean). And harvested rainwater not only conserves natural resources, but it is also free of chemicals, is collected without harming the environment, and is great for your lawn, garden, and houseplants.. The easiest way to collect rainwater is to divert the rain falling on your roof with gutters and downspouts into your rain barrel(s). If you don’t collect the rainwater, especially during the hot dry summer months, much of that water simply runs off the dry ground or is channeled down the storm drain. But if you set a rain barrel beneath your downspout you'll have a free supply of water for your landscaping needs. And the more barrels (or the larger container) you have, the more water you’ll collect – since most modest rain showers would fill up multiple rain barrels.
Wooden barrels may provide rustic charm, but plastic ones are more widely available, lighter in weight, and cheaper to purchase. You can buy ready-made rain barrels, with just a spigot near the bottom, or you can find instructions on this site on how to assemble your own rainwater harvesting system. In either case, you will want to use some sort of lid or cover to minimize evaporation and to keep out debris and mosquitoes – and small animals and children. A hose fitting will give you easy access to the collected water, and a diverter to route the water into the rain barrel. If you don’t have a water pump, you should not expect much water pressure from your rain barrel to your hose. Gravity probably won't give enough pressure to get power a lawn sprinkler, but will be fine to fill up a watering can or flow through a drip irrigation system. However, if you have a collection (or "catchment") area of 1,000 square feet and an average annual rainfall of 50 inches, as we do in Atlanta, you have the potential to collect 30,000 gallons of water annually.