Green Infrastructure – Rain Barrels

July 1st, 2019

While the rainfall is plentiful now, in several months we’ll be eager for additional water for our vegetable and flower gardens.

One water-wise option is building a rain barrel, which is one of several low-cost water conservation methods. We hold rain barrel workshops periodically and teach people about how to build, install and maintain their rain barrels at their homes and garages.

Capturing and reusing rainwater for your gardens is one way of controlling stormwater and helping to reduce local flooding.

Why do we need rain barrels?

Keeping rain water on your property during a storm is crucial to reducing flooding and stream pollution. Because our homes and neighborhoods include many impervious surfaces that don’t absorb rain water, stormwater runoff flowing off our properties has increased, which causes flooding of our neighborhoods and pollution of our streams. As rainwater flows across our yards, parking lots and roads, the water picks up oil, pet waste, fertilizer, and other pollutants, which travel to storm drains and eventually flow into nearby streams and rivers.

Rain barrels are a simple way to capture water pouring off your house’s roof during rain storms. The rain barrel captures water that would otherwise become stormwater runoff and contribute to problems of local flooding and stream pollution.

What is a rain barrel?

A rain barrel is a storage container connected to a downspout that captures rainwater runoff from the roof. Capturing water from your roof helps to reduce stormwater runoff from your property, which in turn can decrease local flooding and other negative impacts to nearby streams. The water captured in rain barrels can then be used for watering gardens or other outdoor, non-potable uses.

Rain barrels are usually 55-gallon plastic containers, and they are staged on an elevated stand (can be made of cinder blocks, bricks, wood) to increase water pressure for homeowner use. Rain barrels come in different shapes and colors, and can even be painted! Often, recycled barrels sourced from manufacturers or the food/beverage industry can be used to make rain barrels. And if you are handy with tools, it is a fairly simple to turn a barrel into a rain barrel.

If you choose not to build your own rain barrel, they are relatively cheap and easy to install in comparison to some other green infrastructure projects. They take up minimal space, so even the smallest properties can install them. A basic rain barrel and all components needed to install it costs less than $75. Some municipalities even have rain barrels available to residents for free, so check with your municipality before investing in a rain barrel!

What are the benefits of rain barrels?

In order for rain barrels to be effective, they must be emptied of water in between rain events so that the rain barrel can capture more water during each storm. To use up captured water between rain events, rain barrels can be used to water gardens or for other outdoor non-potable uses like rinsing tools and washing cars.

Water captured in rain barrels should not be used for drinking because of the potential for roof debris or pollutants to be captured by the rain barrel.

By using captured rainwater to irrigate gardens or for other purposes, homeowners can reduce water consumption and potentially save money from reduced potable water usage.

For more information about rain barrels and the River-Friendly program, please contact coordinator Erin Landis at [email protected] or (609) 737-3735 ext. 21.

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