Here at the Plumbing Circle, we’re all about saving money. Specifically, helping you save YOUR hard earned money. If we can help out a worthwhile cause like the environment along the way, so much the better. It is with these thoughts in mind that we discuss rain barrels today.
What Are Rain Barrels?
Rain barrels – also known as rain water tanks or water butts, depending on your locale – are used as a means of catching and reusing rainwater for domestic purposes. People the world over have been trying to corral natural water since the dawn of recorded history. Today, along with the money saving incentives, people in drought areas are looking for ways to keep and use any water available to them. In areas where there are rainy seasons followed by long dry seasons, it makes sense for people to grab and store the water when it is available, in order to increase their water supply during dry times.
While this all seems like a great way to save money and the environment, you do need to talk to water management officials in your town and see if there are any restrictions on the amount of water you are allowed to catch, and what restrictions might be placed on the use of the water that you catch.
In Colorado, for instance, there are rights to natural water that were established as far back as the 1800’s. Keeping the water that falls on your property may seem like a natural perception, but it is possible that some other entity has a legal claim to that water. On the other end of the spectrum, in parts of Australia, some communities will require a rainwater collecting system just to get a permit to build a new home.
Can Rain Barrels Be Bought Commercially?
Rain barrels are available at most national home centers, and many local lawn and garden centers also have them available in a variety of sizes and styles to choose from. Additionally, they are available on many websites. Most are fairly simple, are built for above ground, and can be used with a roof gutter system. These will generally allow you to catch anywhere from fifty gallons of water to a few hundred gallons of water. Of course, you can buy more than one and use them together, or use them in different spots around your property. The lower priced options usually start between fifty and one hundred dollars. There are also some more advanced designs that are built as underground storage units, and these can also be adapted to catch ground water.
How About Making a Rain Barrel?
Making a basic rain barrel is a pretty simple process. It can become more difficult if you want to have an elaborate system or make it look a little more aesthetically pleasing.
The three elements needed for a rain barrel are a storage tank of some sort, a way to get the water in, and a way to get the water out. A barebones method would consist of a trash barrel sitting under a downspout from you roof gutter with an open top. The water goes into the barrel and you can scoop or pour it out when you want to use it.
We’ll take this crude system and enhance it a little for more practical use.
As for the container, it’s best to get one made from corrosion resistant material such as plastic, or at least a plastic-lined wooden or metal container. Some people recommend a sealed top with a screened opening just large enough to allow the water from the gutter to fall into the tank. The screen will catch any solid matters like stones or leaves that make their way down the roof drain pipe. Other people suggest having a removable top so you can clean it out, and also to facilitate the installation of a drain fitting, although any hardware store should have fittings that you can thread into the side or bottom of any plastic barrel or bucket. If you check with a bottled water or soft drink distributor, they may have containers that hold fifty gallons or more of liquid that they are more than happy to get rid of.
After you have settled on a container or containers and a drain fitting, you can connect a shut-off valve to open and shut when you want water. If you get a boiler or water heater drain valve, it will have a standard hose connection on the outlet side that you can connect to a garden hose if necessary.
There are many things you can do to decorate your rain barrel after its built to make it more pleasing to the eye, but even the most rudimentary rain barrel is going to save you money on your water bill. Additionally, it can make an environmentally meaningful impact when your region is suffering from drought – using water that you’ve collected in your rain barrel is a great way to spare the municipal water supply. And if you can save some money while helping the environment, then that’s a win-win situation!