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Water Storage Containers

There are two major types of Water Storage Containers for a rainwater collection system:

Above-Ground and Below-Ground.
 
Above-Ground:
For most homeowner applications, especially existing homes, we believe Above-Ground containers are sufficient. The variety of Above-Ground containers includes: plastic, wood, and metal rain barrels, and rain bladders. A typical plastic rain barrel, like this first of mine, is usually black, white, or blue; and its main feature is low cost. It is function, but will not win any beauty contests.
 
Rain Barrels
: Rain barrels, sometimes called cisterns, are above-ground water storage containers. They capture rain runoff from a building’s roof using the gutter and downspout system. While some plastic rain barrels can be made to look like wood. This rain barrel, however, is actually made of wood
 
(Photo:http://www.kentuckybarrels.com/RainBarrels.html)
 
It may seem that purchasing a rain water barrel would be a straightforward task. But there are many questions to answer before making your final decision. Rain water barrels come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. They also have many available features that you can choose to have or do without. From compact and easy to store, to cumbersome and decorative, learn a little more about the different types of barrels you can buy.
 
• can be purchased from a number of suppliers or be a make-at-home project.
• vary in size, usually from 20 gallons to 150 gallons. Larger structures can be designed and built, usually out of concrete or wood. Choice of size depends how
much water needs to be stored.
• can be made from wood (recycled oak or ash wine or whisky barrels), heavy plastic (recycled watertight food grade barrels) or ceramic. Many commercially
made rain barrels are molded heavy duty plastics. The wide array of choices of shapes, sizes, and colors allows for creativity when fitting barrels into garden
landscapes and homes’ design.
• are easily integrated into rain gardens, vegetable, flower, rock, or other gardens and green spaces; and
• can be linked together to multiple water capacity.
 
Metal rain barrels such as this steel rain barrel 
 
AQUAPLATE® steel used for rainwater tanks
 (Photo: http://www.bluescopesteel.com.au/building-products/rainwater-harvesting)
 
are designed to hold very large amounts of rain water. Also, they can be formed into attractive shapes, textures, and colors, are easy to maintain, and durable in harsh climates. A typical house has a roof area of 1,200 square feet and four downspouts that will each drain about 300 square feet of roof. That means a rainfall of 0.3 inches will fill a 55-gallon rain barrel placed under each downspout – leaving you with 220 gallons of free water. When the drainage valve is later opened, the water can be emptied out slowly, thus reducing runoff and increasing infiltration, or directed to specific areas of grass, flowers, plants, etc.
 
http://www.rain-barrel.net/
 
WaterBladder - (aka Bladder Tank or Water Pillow) provide a relatively new method of storing water. They are fabricated from two or more pieces a rubberized material, with seams connecting the pieces. The bladder remains flat until filled with water, and returns to its compressed compact state as the water is removed. These are often constructed to hold a large amount of water, and they are often located under a deck or porch – where they are not readily noticeable. 
 
Above-Ground Tanks are containment devices that provide storage for a very large amount of water – from 100 to 10,000 gallons of water. There are used in situations where there are: large amount of land to place the tank(s), a need for the storage of large amounts of water, and the rainfall to fill the tanks.
Below-Ground

WaterBladder - http://www.bayteccontainers.com/waterbags.html

Collapsible Rain Bladders (aka Bladder Tank or Water Pillow) provide a relatively new method of storing water. They are fabricated from two or more pieces a rubberized material, with seams connecting the pieces. The bladder remains flat until filled with water, and returns to its compressed compact state as the water is removed.

These are often constructed to hold a large amount of water, and they are often located under a deck or porch – where they are not readily noticeable.
 
AboveGD - httpwww.freeflowater.comgallery.html
Above-Ground Tanks are containment devices that provide storage for a very large amount of water – from 100 to 10,000 gallons of water. There are used in situations where there are: large amount of land to place the tank(s), a need for the storage of large amounts of water, and the rainfall to fill the tanks.
 
Below-Ground:
BelowGroundIllustration - http://www.aceguttering.co.uk/our-products/rainwater-harvesting-systems/
For new home construction, we feel many localities will probably require the installation of Below-Ground containers. These containers may be made of steel, or fabricated on-site out of concrete, but the usual below-ground container is made of plastic. And because they are usually installed during home construction, they often have a very large capacity. And since they are below ground level, the only way to use the water is with some sort of pump.
 
Is Stored Rain water Safe to Drink?
While the look a rain barrel can be appealing, in general, the answer is NO. The water collected by a rainwater storage container is rain water. Rain water falls through the atmosphere and collects lots of polluted materials on its way down. Then the water trickles down your roof (where birds use it as a restroom) and collects more harmful material and bacteria before it pours down your downspouts and into your rain barrel. You really should never plan on drinking rain water if it hasn’t been properly filtered. Stick to bottled water or your tap. In addition, rain barrels are often not constructed of food grade plastic, so they are considered unsafe for storing consumable products.
Even if it is made from food grade plastic, it’s probably recycled and may have lingering odors you really wouldn’t want to serve to your guests. For example, some great recycled rain barrels was actually previously used to harvest olives. Although it’s food grade plastic, it retains its olive smell - which would severely alter the appeal of a cool glass of water. So, while in that case the water would be safe to drink, it’s less than desirable.
 
Our suggestion, regardless of rain barrel construction, is to use the rain barrel for the purpose it’s intended – to collect rain water and water plants and grass. Leave the food business to products that are made for that purpose!