Just like any other product, a rain barrel comes in many shapes and sizes and can be as low as free, if you can build your own and hunt down some basic parts you will need, up through a few hundred dollars. I have seen good ones at a local home center for $99.
Here is how a rain barrel works. As the name implies it is a barrel or big container with an opening at the top. Most rain barrels allow for that top opening to have your home’s downspout connected to it, so that when, as you guessed it, rains, the rainwater flows into the barrel. Then you reuse that water later as opposed to turning on your hose, sprinkler system and so on.
For many parts of the United States, storing water for later use can be invaluable since these parts go through dry periods for weeks at a time. However, like I found out, for some parts of Colorado, a rain barrel can be illegal. Why? I am not sure on that, so if you live in one of these areas where you are not allowed to have a rain barrel, please let me know. I would be interested in hearing the reasons you were told you could not have one.
There are some downsides to a rain barrel that you need to know about so that you are prepared to tackle them. I turned to William Berg of “Orchid Flower HQ” (http://www.orchidflowerhq.com/) who is an avid user and supporter of rain barrels.
“The water you end up collecting might be of poor quality and contain unwanted chemicals. Collected rain water is not nearly as clean as people think.This is usually not a problem with hardy plants but can be a problem with more sensitive plants and is a big problem if you want to use the water for other purposes such as for animals or in aquariums. The water collected may be tainted due to several reasons,” says William.
“The most common are that you have a type of roof that leach chemicals when it get wet. A common example of this is copper roofs but there are other types of roofs with the same problem as well. Even if you have a roof that doesn’t leak chemicals into the rainwater you are not safe. If you live in an area with a lot of traffic or with nearby factories pollutants can stick to the roof and than end up in the water when it rains and the rain ”cleans” the roof again. Always have your water tested before you use it to drink, to give to your
animals or in an aquarium.”
One final note on what you should look out for are mosquitoes. Still standing water can be a great breeding ground for mosquitoes. So make sure your rain barrel is as tight as possible and try to use the water collected at least once per week, even if it’s a little bit, to keep the water moving. In the event you see the barrel start to gather some mosquito activity, drain the barrel, dry it out and start over.
About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the monthly Seeds Club.
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