Depending on where you’re located, water conservation is an issue that directly impacts many homes on a daily basis. Homeowners who don’t face droughts aren’t affected in their day to day behavior but they can still conserve water with rain barrels.
There are many different environmental benefits that come with rain barrels. Homeowners using them save money on their water bills, especially during summer.
Stormwater pollution occurs when fertilizer and other chemicals are mixed with the local stream or storm water system. Stormwater runoff contains chemicals and other elements that cause erosion and flooding. These issues occur more frequently when there are too many paved surfaces such as sidewalks.
When rain barrels are used, stormwater is collected, preventing the runoff from seeping into the ground too quickly. The collection of rainwater keeps less of the harmful runoff from reaching streams and lakes nearby, reducing the amount of waste in these bodies of water.
Collecting stormwater allows homeowners to save money on their water bills, especially for homes that have a lot of plants in their garden. Rain barrels are especially helpful during droughts and allow homeowners to maintain their gardens throughout wide scale water shortages.
During the summer, the amount of water used on lawns and gardening makes up 40% of the water used throughout the season. Utilizing rain barrels is a perfect way to conserve household water usage.
Using rainwater to water plants allows them to be healthier, grow faster and reduces water bills. On average, rain barrels allow people to save 1,300 gallons of water according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A National Survey done by the DC Urban Gardeners found that rain barrels can help homeowners save an average of $35 a month in the summertime.
Homeowners save money with rain barrels and around 1,300 gallons less of rainwater runoff will reach streams and stormwater sewers, resulting in an improved quality of local water.
Once you’ve made the decision to use rain barrels in your yard, it’s important to determine how big the barrel should be. To make this decision, you should determine what the rainwater will be used for as well as the size of your roof.
The amount of rainwater that can be collected at your home is determined by two different factors: average annual rainfall, in inches, for your town and the size of your roof in square feet.
To determine the total number of gallons of rainwater that can be collected use this simple equation:
Your Area’s Average Annual Rainfall (Inches)
x Square Footage of Your Roof x 0.623
= Number of Gallons of Rainwater That Can Be Collected
Although 0.623 may seem like an arbitrary number, it’s the amount of water in gallons needed to fill one square foot with a depth of one inch. Once you’ve determined the total amount of rainwater that you can collect, start shopping for a rain barrel or build your own.
Rain Barrels can hold anywhere between 30 to 100 gallons of water. You can determine how many you need, what you’ll be using the rain barrel for and how much rainwater you can collect.
In areas with less rainfall, it isn’t necessary to have multiple rain barrels. In areas with heavier rainfall, it may be more helpful in order to collect more water. If you aren’t using the water relatively quickly, it doesn’t benefit you to have more than one barrel because the water will slowly evaporate.
Rain barrels typically cost anywhere between $50 to $200, however you can easily create your own rain barrel or repurpose an old one. It’s important to make sure your barrel is thick enough so it can hold a large volume of water without cracking or breaking from the weight of the water over time.
One great idea is to consider contacting restaurants, bottling companies or food manufacturers to get an old barrel and reuse it. If you’re hoping for a DIY rain barrel it’s fairly easy to create your own, so you can save some money.
Ideally, rain barrels will have two spigots, so that you can hook up a hose and leave a water can at the other spigot to easily fill it up. These spigots allow you to transport the rainwater more easily, so you can water your plants or clean your car.
The rainwater you’ll collect can be used for a few different purposes. It’s perfect for watering plants or washing your home.
Unlike water from your faucet or hose, there’s no chlorine, salt or chemicals in rainwater. It’s perfect for watering plants because it pushes the salt deeper into the soil instead of letting it build up in the plant’s roots.
However, you need to be careful if you have moss-killer, other chemicals or pesticides on your roof. In this case you should collect the rainwater the first couple of times you use the rain barrel instead of watering your plants with it.
If you’re aware the water you’re collecting is being exposed to a lot of air pollution or metals, you should test it to make sure that it’s safe before using it to water produce. Rainwater containing chemicals is toxic to your plants which is why it’s crucial to test if you’ll be watering vegetables or fruits.
Rainwater can also be used to wash the windows on your home or car. As opposed to tap water, there aren’t minerals in rainwater which will decrease the likelihood of there being spots on the windows or car when you’re done washing it.
Rain barrels are a great way to conserve the environment, while saving some money in the process. However rain gardens, green roofs and installing pavement that water can seep through are other great options to consider.
A rain garden is a shallow trough with plants, so it can handle a lot of rain. These plants will filter the rainwater through their roots instead of the water building up on the surface and running into streams. Rain gardens help rainwater move slowly into the soil and limit the amount of runoff with chemicals reaching local bodies of water.
Although less people are aware of the benefits of green roofs, they’re a great way to prevent stormwater runoff from building up in the sewer systems. Green roofs have three main layers which include a water proofing, root repellent and drainage layer.
There are a few different materials pavement can be made out of that allow rain to be absorbed more easily. These include concrete, stone and plastic and usually there is opening filled with sand or soil, maybe even with grass or plants.
Just as rainwater and green roofs assist in reducing the amount of runoff that is reaching streams, permeable pavement is able to do so as well. These types of pavement also allow you to filter out some of the bad chemicals and pollutants that end up in stormwater runoff.
Now that you’ve learned all about the personal and communal benefits that come with implementing a rain barrel system, it’s time to get started. Whether you’re going to build your own or start shopping around for one, the benefits will quickly outweigh the costs.