Saturday, April 10, 2010
Recycle the Rain: A how-to for installing a rain barrel
Start with a drum
Many people make rain barrels out of inexpensive 50-gallon food-grade drums that were used to carry juices, olives, pickles, etc. Often you can find barrels for around $10 from drum and barrel suppliers.
Be sure to get a heavy-grade plastic container that won't let in light — clear or translucent barrels can speed the growth of algae, which can clog pipes.
Learn how to make a rain barrel
The water savings from using stored rainwater rather than municipal or well water can be substantial over a period of time. A rain barrel can also help reduce the amount of water that may settle around the foundation of your home.
Uses for collected water
• Connect to a soaker hose (with the pressure-reducing washer removed)
• Fill a watering can and hand-water plants, flower beds and gardens
• Keep your compost bin moist
• Rinse off gardening tools
How much rainwater can I collect?
A typical 1/2-inch rainfall will fill a 50- to 55- gallon barrel. Figure about a half gallon of water per square foot of roof area during a 1-inch rainfall. A 2,000-square-foot roof can collect about 1,000 gallons of water (accounting for about 20% loss from evaporation, runoff and splash).
What about filtering?
Leaf debris, bird droppings and chemicals from roof material won't likely be harmful to plants. Use a window screen or wire mesh to keep out debris and insects, and clean the tank periodically to remove any settling.
Do I need a permit?
Check with your county to see if a permit is required to install a small rain barrel for landscape watering. Some subdivisions with deed restrictions prohibit them. You can also check your local plumbing and health codes for guidance.
Stay away from plumbing
It's important to keep your rain barrel independent from existing house piping or sprinkler system piping to prevent a cross-connection to your potable water.
Rain barrel supplies
To find barrels or drums to convert into rain barrels, check the phone book or on the web. Make sure you purchase plastic food-grade containers. You can also get ready-to-go rain barrels; they come with an inlet and outlet already installed.
How it works
Use collected water...
Who's doing it?The Hillsborough County Courthouse has a 15,000-gallon container. Rainwater is collected from the roof and stored in the underground tank, later to be used for watering the landscape.
The Florida House Learning Center in Sarasota has two water tanks that each hold 2,500 gallons of rainwater. One is used for irrigation, the other for flushing toilets and irrigation.
Many Extension offices have rain barrel demonstration exhibits and information on plants, gardening, composting and water conservation. Most even offer workshops on these subjects.