Conserving Water With a Rain Barrel

Conserving Water With a Rain Barrel
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rain barrelCollecting and using rain water is certainly not a new idea, but it is one that has been laid aside by most people because of the ease with which we can use our garden hoses. Most people don't even use watering cans anymore, instead opting for soaker hoses and sprinklers.  While there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of modern technology, it doesn't mean we have to throw out tried and true old fashioned methods from generations past.

Purchasing a rain barrel can cost anywhere from $80 to $300, depending on how fancy it is and how attractive it looks. A nice looking wooden barrel will cost more than a plain plastic barrel.  As with most things, you can make one yourself for much, much less. First, there are some very basic tips to be aware of before buying or making a rain barrel.

1. The rain barrel should always be covered securely for safety reasons. Children and pets can be hurt if they manage to fall in head first.  If it can happen, then it will somewhere, somehow. It's better to be prepared.

2. If you put in a spigot make sure you put it as low as you can on the barrel or trash can,
otherwise you won't be able to get the water out that is below the spigot level unless you tip the barrel.

3. Put your barrel on a small platform of some type.  Make it out of bricks, cement blocks or
wood, and make sure it's level and sturdy enough to hold the barrel full of water.

4. Only reuse barrels that have been used for storing food or other safe products.  Never reuse barrels that have stored petroleum products, chemicals, or cleaners, etc.

5. It will be important to secure screen material over the top of the barrel, even if you use the lid. This will help protect against mosquitoes laying their eggs in your water. The water level should be kept just below the screen.  If the water goes above it, the mosquitoes can breed there in that gap.

Rain barrels are not meant to store water for long periods, but rather for collection. If you use the water regularly this should not be a problem.  Use the water in the garden, to water your houseplants, and it's even helpful for washing pets and doing other outside chores.

How to Make a Rain Barrel

Here's a very simple set of directions to help you make your own rain barrel. There are many variations that can be used.  Good resources include your county government office or the university extension office in your state.  They may even have instructions you can print out and follow. Some offer classes in making your own rain barrel system.

You will need:

plastic barrel (55 gallon is common) with a lid or a large plastic garbage can
  1 tube of watertight sealant/caulk
  2 rubber washers
  2 metal washers
  1 spigot/faucet (3/4 inch works well)
  bungee cords

1. About 3 inches or so from the bottom of the barrel cut a hole large enough to fit the pipe of the faucet. Use the caulk on the inside and outside of the hole to fasten the faucet in place with a rubber washer placed on first, the metal washer second. (Tip the barrel on it's side and get inside (kids can help with this) to caulk the faucet, while having someone hold it in place on the outside. When it's secure, repeat on the outside. Use a metal washer that will not rust (ask at your hardware store). Finally, one option for caulking is to put a thin but even coat of silicone caulking between the plastic washer and the barrel, both inside and out.

2. Cut the screen big enough to hang over the top edge of the barrel 2 - 3 inches all the way around.  Use the bungee cord to secure the screen to the barrel. It must be tight and secure.

3. Lastly you will need to cut a section of the lid that will fit the down spout from your home's eves. If you ask at a home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowes, they can help you find the correct one for your eves. Place the barrel at the corner where the down spout is located, and connect the downspout to the barrel.

Plastic barrels can be painted on the outside to match your house color. One barrel is good to start with until you find out how much rain water you will save and use. Later you can add another barrel if it's needed. Older children and teens can assist in watering the garden and watching the barrel's water level.  This is a good lesson in conservation for the entire family.

More You Might Like:

Make a Homemade Rain Gauge
For the kids: Paper Towel Rain Maker
Unique Containers for Herbs and Flowers


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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