I’ll be the first to admit, I was delighted to have early spring-like conditions, warm weather and dry days in March and early April. Until it lasted a bit too long, and I longed for some rain. I noticed my soil was cracked and dry, my grass and the fields were not very green, the trees were not popping out leaves and the peeping and croaking of frogs and toads had literally dried up.
It was then that I realized how much we needed a good old spring rain shower or soaker. Luckily, April showers came … and needless to say, it was much appreciated! That really got me to thinking, what are we in for? According to NOAA, almost half of the United States is currently experiencing some level of drought, and it is expected to worsen in the upcoming months.
Experts say the dry conditions could put a strain on water supplies and have important effects on the environment, such as increased susceptibility to fire, particularly out west, this summer. That being said, now would be a great time to consider water conservation ideas.
So, how about an old-fashioned rain barrel? This concept is nothing new, but the designs and types are varied, and no matter how much money you spend or what you fancy, it all boils down to one basic principle: saving and collecting rainwater.
The rain barrel attaches to a gutter downspout allowing it to harvest the natural rainwater. With a spigot at the bottom of the barrel, you can use the rainwater to water flowers, landscape plants, trees and your garden. Rain barrels come in different sizes and colors and can be purchased or homemade. Rain barrels are environmentally friendly.
Rain barrels offer many advantages. First, you have a supply of natural rainwater to use on your plants. Second, collecting the roof water reduces water run-off.
When it rains, roof water travels down gutters and often runs off lawns faster than it can infiltrate the soil. The rushing water often travels over surfaces such as lawns, roads and driveways, picking up pollutants as it enters stormwater drains, which enhances flooding and eroding in nearby streams.
Third, you are saving money. By collecting rainwater from a roof during the spring and summer months and storing it in a rain barrel, homeowners can create an alternative supply that won’t tax the groundwater supply or increase the water bill.
Fourth, you could save your newly planted tree or plants in times of drought. During below normal rainfall periods, a rain barrel can provide a homeowner with a non-potable water source during dry spells.
Finally, you can feel good about doing something “green” for the environment. Saving water, preventing excess run-off, conserving energy and keeping green plants thriving is always a rewarding feeling. Remember, one rain barrel is better than none.
Tips and tricks
After a good rainstorm, you might be surprised how fast your barrel will fill up, so it’s best to use an overflow device; pipe or hose, to re-direct stormwater. Make sure to direct it away from the foundation. You can divert water back into the gutter, or rain barrels can be connected together to allow for overflow water to be diverted to another barrel.
Keep a screen over the lid to keep leaf debris, mosquitoes and other animals out of the barrel. Many people raise and level the barrel using concrete blocks or paver stones, to help increase water pressure.
Finally, before winter; to prevent freezing and cracking the barrel, drain the barrel and either leave the spigot open or completely unhook the barrel from the downspout. Make sure to redirect the water away from the foundation of the house using a flexible downspout attachment.
Whether you decide to roll out the barrel this year, or just start a different conservation habit, it all adds up.
From turning off the sink when you brush your teeth, to using a broom instead of a hose to clean patios, sidewalks and driveways or installing water-saving showerheads or flow restrictors, all the little things can add up over time to help conserve water. And the benefit is two-fold: saving water and saving money.
No matter your activity, please consider the many ways you can help yourself and the environment. For more information on rain barrels and rain gardens, visit wayneswcd.org/home/landowner-assistance/rain-barrels-and-gardens.
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