It’s time to roll out the rain barrel and conserve water


Rain barrels make every drop count. That’s the slogan that begins every one of my rain barrel presentations.

Well, OK, I have to confess here that I have done only one actual presentation, but when someone comes into the office looking for rain barrels, I do kind of a mini-presentation for him. The only difference in my office presentation and an auditorium presentation is that the person coming into the office already knows they want a rain barrel and the person sitting in the auditorium may not have a clue what a rain barrel is.

Finite resource.

Many people do not realize how little water we have.

Water is a limited resource and it’s not renewable. We have been using the same water since the earth was created. This is the water cycle you learned about in elementary school science class.

But did you know that only 1 percent of all the earth’s water is drinkable or usable for human consumption? Add to that how important water is to every single living thing on earth, and you have a pretty good reason to protect it and use each drop wisely.

Nothing new.

The concept of a rain barrel isn’t anything new. People have been collecting rain water for thousands of years.

Surprisingly, one of the first and simplest ideas is still being used today: Collect rain and store it in a container to use later. That’s exactly what a rain barrel does.

Chances are you know someone who has a rain barrel. They are a lot more common today than even just five years ago.

Easy to install.

Besides being good for the environment, they are pretty easy to set up and install. There are really only a couple of things you need to do to. You need to make it stable and you need to get water to it. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

A strategically placed rain barrel can easily collect a barrelful of water in a single rain event. The corner of your structure or against a wall near your downspout is a good location.

The barrel can be secured to the structure for more stability. Cinder blocks can provide a sturdy, level base to set your barrel on and by raising the rain barrel up, you will naturally increase the water pressure and give you enough clearance to set a watering can underneath the spigot or attach a hose to it.

Safety measures.

Do not allow children or pets to climb or play on it. A full barrel could easily weigh over 400 pounds. A child or pet could drown if they fell in or be injured or killed if it fell on them.

Bring on the rain.

Once you have it up on its base, the only thing left to do is get the rain water to it.

There are many different ways to do this and materials for this can be found at most home improvement and hardware stores. Simply divert your downspouts into barrel.

Once the barrel is full, the overflow will either direct excess water out onto your lawn or it can be reconnected to the downspout to continue on its original path.

For ideas on this and even video demonstrations, try Googling “rain barrel installation” and you will get thousands of sites to choose from.

If you are handy and prefer to build one yourself, there are two important things to consider. The thickness of the plastic and if the barrel was used, what it was used for. The plastic must be heavy duty; a regular plastic garbage can is usually not thick enough. It will be holding a lot of water and you don’t want it to burst.

Also, you need to know what the barrel contained. Stay away from barrels that stored chemicals, poisons, or petroleum products as residue may have permeated into the plastic and could leach into the water.

A food grade plastic is your best bet since it is specially made to store food, the plastic is denser and is not designed to hold food and the plastic itself is not friendly to germs and microbes.


In addition to having a ready source of water for your lawn or plants, there are other benefits to a rain barrel.

When it rains, it’s this initial surge of storm water that creates the most erosion, carries the most pollutants, and overwhelms storm water drainage systems. By utilizing a rain barrel, you slow down the run-off, which will reduce erosion, sedimentation, and pollution in our waterways.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, think about where that barrel would end up if it were not given new life as a rain barrel — by recycling and reusing these plastic barrels, you are reducing the amount of waste going into landfills.

Rain barrels can be incorporated into your landscaping. They can be an attractive addition to your home. With a little paint, imagination, and ingenuity they can become a focal point, blend in or even become invisible. The barrels can be painted, enclosed with wood panels, or hidden by plants and bushes.

Rain barrels are a smart investment in tomorrow, so why don’t you have one already?


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.