Friday, June 5, 2009

Rain Barrels

I've recently installed rain barrels on our house. There is one connected to each of the downspouts on the front of the house. I thought it was a phenomenal idea; the barrels collect rain from the roof so I can water the garden when it gets dry. Not only that, but I don't have to mess with the downspouts that dump water next to my leaky basement.

Thus far it hasn't been a complete success. I have two 55 gallon rain barrels that collect the rain from just the front half of the roof. On the first night after installation it rained. I was really excited as I heard the big storm that night just knowing that my barrels were filling with water that I could use in the garden. Both barrels overflowed that night.

That was a pretty big storm, so I was excited to have some rain stored for the dry days to follow. Except the following days weren't dry. It doesn't take much rain to overflow an already full rain barrel.

So the rain barrels overflowed for a bit, thereby allowing the water to collect right next to the leaky basement (which hasn't leaked for us yet). Then one day it was dry! I took my watering can and filled it up from the rain barrels. (I installed spigots at the bottom of the rain barrels so that water removal is easy). It didn't take me long to note that a 1 gallon watering can doesn't empty a 55 gallon barrel very quickly. I need a bigger watering can. I got a little bit of water of the barrels, but not nearly enough. They both overflowed with the next rain.

At this point I was getting pretty worried about our basement leaking. We've heard that it does and I know that if I dump enough water right next to the house it will leak. So I drained the water from the barrel that I was worried about well away from the house. Luckily that wasn't a difficult process. It hasn't rained since. So now things are looking like they'll be dry for awhile and I've only got half the water I could have had.

I've been considering options for the future. I could buy more barrels and hook up several barrels in tandem to collect more rain water, but that would cost more money. Those barrels aren't cheap even though they we've found a good place to buy them used. The less expensive option would be to simply install an overflow pipe that directed the water away from the house. That would be cheap and easy, but I'd be missing all that rain water.

I think I'm going to have to buy more barrels anyway because I currently only have one compost bin. If we keep adding stuff to it there is no way it will ever finish composting. If we stop adding things to it we won't have anywhere to put our compost for at least several weeks.

We'll figure something out.


Gravity Gardener said...

Collecting rainwater for my bucket garden is a great way to help conserve water.
I too created a rain barrel using a vinyl trashcan and a few tools.
It cost about 10 bucks and is working nicely. You can take a look at my step by step pictures if interested.

Gravity Gardener..

Anonymous said...

I went to a "rainwater harvesting" class at a community center here in Seattle and the instructor essentially said: everybody wants to collect water from their roof so they can water their gardens when it's dry, and I'm sorry to say, but it just won't work.

in a nutshell: the dry period is so much drier than the wet period that without a huge expensive cistern you can't possibly collect all that falls in the winter, and you blow through all you've collected too quickly at the start of the summer. (there was an intersting side note about how you don't actually own the water that falls on your property, the State does...)

This guy's number one suggestion (other than having him build a huge expensive cistern...) was using the rain water to flush your toilet.

It was a great seminar and I believed everything he told us, though it wasn't what I wanted to hear...