Hanifl Shelter
Rain Barrel at the Hanifl Fields Shelter

Rain Barrels for Water Conservation

Here you will find information on the use of rain barrels.

 Why Use Rain Barrels?

Capturing and reusing the water offers a barrelful of benefits, including saving on utility bills, boosting the health of your lawn with chemical-free water, avoiding watering restrictions, and helping the environment. Collecting rain in barrels helps slow runoff and encourages rain to soak into the soil more efficiently, which is important to recharging groundwater supplies and protecting sensitive ecosystems. Using a rain barrel also reduces demand from community water supplies and helps avoid the consequences of overusing local water sources. How much difference could one barrel make?

Well, the answer may surprise you. You might not think you can collect enough water to make a difference. However, you will be surprised how fast rainwater adds up if you are collecting it from the roof. Just a half inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof yields 300 gallons of water, and that's only during one rainfall. Lets' say annual rainfall in your area is 16 to 20 inches. That's 9,600 to 12,000 gallons of water in a year - way more than you probably need. However, you don't have to catch every drop of rain to reap the benefits.

Here are a couple of additional ways to look at it:

  • A typical half-inch rainfall will easily fill a 55-gallon barrel.
  • A modest-sized house with a typical two-foot overhang will collect about 408 gallons of water during a half-inch rain.
  • During a one-inch rainfall, you can collect about a half-gallon of water per square foot of roof.

So how much can you expect to collect? It's easy to calculate your own rainfall potential. First, estimate the square footage of your roof. Divide that number by two. That's how many gallons your roof will collect during a one-inch rainfall.

As you can see, it won't take long to fill up your new rain barrel. If you want to collect as much rainwater as possible, consider connecting several barrels together at each downspout. Don't forget to raise the barrels off the ground to make the faucet easier to access, and make a plan for overflow so you won't compromise the foundation of your home or building. In most cases, gravity will pull the water through the spigot and into a hose. You also can dip a watering can into the barrel or get a pump. A soaker hose is an excellent solution to avoid wasting water. Just hook one up to your rain barrel and even overflow water won't go to waste.

Once you've got your rain barrel or barrels in place, friends, family and neighbors will be curious, and you'll inspire them to consider rainwater conservation, too, which further extends the impact of your own efforts. Any way you look at it, harvesting rainwater helps you, your community and your world.

 Make your own rain barrel

1. Start with a large, food-quality, plastic barrel and drill a hole in the cap of the barrel with a large, 3/4-inch drill bit. While plastic is preferred because it won't rust, any large, waterproof container will work well.

2. Drill a second hole nearby along the side of the container about 1 or 2 inches from the top.

3. Flip the barrel over and drill a third hole into the base.

4. Determine the number of pipe adaptors (male) and couplings (female) needed to span the distance from the hole at the barrel base to the outer edge of the barrel.

5. Wrap each threaded adaptor end of piping with plumber's tape for a watertight seal.

6. Screw the sections together, making sure they're secure and tight.

7. Attach a curved coupling to the hole on the barrel base and connect the additional adaptors to the curved section. Join a spigot to the end of the attached pipe section. This will allow you to control the release of the collected water.

8. The hole on the side of the barrel is for the spigot. Secure a small piece of PVC pipe through the hole to connect the spigot.

9. Join the spigot to the pipe.

10. Attach a garden hose to the spigot.

11. To make a water collection funnel, cut a piece of window screening a little bigger than the PVC coupling and secure it with a hose clamp.

12. Slide the pipe into the large hole in the barrel.

13. To attach the rain collector to your house, find a location that is level. Remember that when the rain collector is full, it can weigh more than 400 pounds, so it's important to place it in a level location to keep the barrel stable.

14. Place the rain barrel on stacked cinderblocks to raise it off the ground. This provides room underneath the barrel for the release spigot and a watering can to access the rainwater. Make sure the cinderblocks are stable.

15. About 1 or 2 inches above the barrel along the gutter, cut out and hinge an elbow section.

16. Fit the base of the section with a metal screen.

17. Place a pad on the metal screen to soften the sound of rain hitting the metal.

18. When the barrel is full, the downspout can be hinged closed to stop the flow of water to the barrel.

19. Because most rain barrels hold only 55 gallons of water, you can stretch the garden's water supply even further for those dry summer months by adding additional barrels. Just make sure to redirect the surplus water.

20. When you install your rain barrel, add an overflow pipe, so that excess water can escape. Make sure that the overflow pipe is pointed away from your home's foundation.

21. Always keep a lid on your rain barrel to prevent any curious children or animals from toppling in, as well as preventing any potential mosquito populations from exploding.

22. If you treat your roof for pests or wood, be sure to unhook your rain barrel for at least two weeks.