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Make Your Own Rain Barrel

What is a rain barrel?

A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams.  Usually a rain barrel is composed of a 55 gallon drum, a vinyl hose, PVC couplings, a screen grate to keep debris and insects out, and other off-the-shelf items.  A rain barrel is relatively simple and inexpensive to construct and can sit conveniently under any residential gutter down spout. 

Why have a rain barrel?

Lawn and garden watering make up nearly 40% of total household water use during the summer.  A rain barrel collects water and stores it for when you need it most--during periods of drought--to water plants, wash your car, or to top a swimming pool.  It provides an ample supply of free "soft water" to homeowners, containing no chlorine, lime or calcium making it ideal for gardens, flower pots, and car and window washing.  A rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months.  Saving water not only helps protect the environment, it saves you money and energy because it decreases your demand for treated tap water. 

Are there rain barrel disadvantages?

The main limitation is size.  A rain barrel can only provide as much water as it can hold.  But there’s a workaround: You can hook up your rain barrel’s overflow to a second barrel to collect more water, and you can even connect the second one’s overflow to a third.  Another important limitation is safety.  You can’t use water from a rain barrel for just anything without treating it first to make it potable.  You shouldn’t consume or bathe in untreated rain barrel water. 

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