Green Gardening: Water Collecting with Rain Barrels

Rainwater collection can help minimize the demand for water that gardening makes during the hottest, driest periods. Rain barrels are a great way to capitalize on this free source of water. Reasonably priced and easy to install, gardeners are advised to take a look at utilizing rain barrels.

Rainwater collection for use during dry spells is not new technology; rainwater has been being collected for over 2,000 years. This ancient technology has found new life among today’s green gardeners. Costs of municipal water are rising and drought restrictions now face many areas of the United States. While the average American may not be inclined to install a large cistern in their yard, rain barrels provide a reasonably priced and easily installed option that produces a nice supplement to traditional water sources.

Water is a much valued and often taken for granted natural resource. Water is essential to life, human, critter, plant and other. Many Americans turn on the tap, leave it running for whatever their intended purpose, such as brushing one’s teeth, and never give a thought to the big picture of water shortages around the world. Often gardeners turn on their sprinklers with not much thought beyond their knowledge that their plants need a thorough soaking. It may seem to some that water is in abundance. Lakes and rivers may dot the topo map of your region. However, consider these facts. Though 70% of the Earth surface is water only 2.5% is fresh water (as opposed to salt water). Most of that 2.5% is locked up in glaciers and ice caps. It is estimated that this leaves the world’s citizens with a mere 3/10 of 1 percent for our use. Add to that, much of the world’s useable fresh water is at risk, through desertification or contamination. Doing whatever we can to conserve our fresh water becomes recognizably important.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, on average, each person in the USA uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day. Landscaping, of course, is only one small part of our usage but is significant none-the-less – and besides that, water costs money! Depending on where you live and the features of your garden, the costs of water to keep your garden hydrated, and often the related sewer costs even though the water you use for gardening never goes into the municipal sewer system, can put a significant dent in your green thumb budget. Another benefit to collecting rainwater is that it provides chemically free soft water with no chlorine, calcium or lime. It also tends to have less sediments and salts than municipal water. Your plants will thrive!

Exactly how much water could you collect in rain barrels from the roof of your house? For each 1″ of rain that falls on a roof of 1,000 square feet, you can expect to collect approximately 600 gallons of rainwater. If you want to calculate the potential savings to your pocketbook look at your water bill. It is billed in CCF’s. Each CCF is 100 cubic feet of water – the equivalent of 748 gallons. Each time it rains 1″ on a roof of 100 square feet it adds up to a little less than 1CCF. To figure a more exact number you will need to know the square footage of your roof, the average rainfall in your area and the cost per CCF in your area. To maximize your savings you will want to have rain barrels on each side of your roof and possibly connect 2 or more together to provide some storage capacity. Rain barrels hold 40-80 gallons each depending on which size you purchase. A 1/4 inch rainfall collected from an average roof will fill one barrel.

Buying and installing rain barrels is relatively pain free. Barrels can be purchased at some local garden stores as well as on line and come in wood or plastic, in a variety of colors to blend with your house or landscape. Once on-site, the barrels connect up to your downspout. Most barrels have a spigot to connect the rain barrel to your garden hose as well as an overflow hose. It is important purchase barrels that are food quality to insure you are not introducing and contaminants from the plastic or wood treatment, into your water. When installing your barrels, be sure they are on a study and level surface so as to not tip over and cause injury or dump a large volume of water right at your foundation. You also want to be sure to have an overflow set up incase you experience a large rainfall while away.

Once they are set up all you need to do is watch them fill up and use your water! One side benefit not to be overlooked is the pleasure you will experience as you nourish your garden with water that you harvested yourself.

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