Rain Barrels Easy, Cheap Way to Protect Environment

By Dutton, Melissa Kossler | The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), March 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

Rain Barrels Easy, Cheap Way to Protect Environment


Dutton, Melissa Kossler, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)


Robin Blair does what she can to help her plants thrive. She plants them in good soil and keeps the weeds away. She also waters them regularly with rainwater captured in barrels in the yard of her Shrewsbury, N.J., home.

Collecting the water is easy, she says, and it's good for her plants and the environment.

"Rainwater is void of chemicals. It's kinder to plants and landscaping," says Blair, who has two rain barrels and a cistern tied into her gutter system. "Water is a precious resource. Why not collect rainwater and reuse it?"

Blair is such a proponent that she got trained to teach other gardeners how to make and use rain barrels.

Rain-barrel use and classes are on the rise around the country, according to gardening and conservation experts. Although the concept of capturing and reusing rainwater has existed for thousands of years, many gardeners and environmentalists are revisiting it because of concerns about stormwater runoff and water conservation.

Most rain barrels hold around 55 gallons of water and are connected to a downspout. They normally have an overflow pipe that detours excess water away from a home's foundation, and a filter that prevents mosquitoes from entering. Rain barrels also have a tap that can be used to fill watering cans or connect to a hose.

A 55-gallon barrel connected to a 1,000-square-foot roof will fill up during a 1-inch rain. The barrels can be purchased for $50 to $120 each, or constructed out of food-grade drums.

In addition to watering the garden, some people use rainwater for koi ponds or aquariums, says Dotty Woodson, extension program specialist for water resources at Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Dallas.

She said many rain-barrel users like that rainwater does not contain chlorine, fluoride or other chemicals that municipalities use to treat water. …

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