The quality of rainwater is second to none when it comes to watering plants and landscapes. Harvested rainwater is free from the salts and pollutants commonly found in ground and surface water, and it’s free from the chemicals and treatments often used in municipal water sources.
The natural temperature of rainwater doesn’t shock plants with cold as is often the case with tap water. What’s more, rainwater contains no chlorine, a chemical added to drinking water which inhibits plant growth.
The essential component in any rainwater harvesting system is a collection point—usually a rain barrel which is attached to the downspouts that direct water off the roof of your house. You can make your own rain barrel inexpensively with a plastic barrel, a downspout extender, spigot, hose, overflow adapter, drill, tin snips, tubing and hose clamps.
Pick out a barrel that’s made of sturdy plastic; food grade plastic is preferable because it’s UV-protected. Remember, a steady rain will fill a 55-gallon barrel in just a few minutes, so it won’t take long to fill most large containers.
- Place your barrel on a level surface next to your downspout. You can do this by laying down cinder blocks or pavers that will keep the barrel off the ground, and the extra height will help the water to flow more easily.
- Drill two hole in your barrel: the first one 3 inches from the bottom to accommodate a spigot; the second a few inches from the top of the barrel to attach an overflow adapter.
- Screw a small spigot into the bottom hole and insert the overflow adapter into the top hole, ensuring that both fit tightly. Attach a length of hose to the adapter and security with a hose clamp. The hose should be long enough to extend downward and away from your home’s foundation.
- Measure the height of your barrel and disconnected or cut the downspout a few inches above it (Note: if your down spout is not segmented, you will need tin snips to cut it to length. Thicker aluminum may require a hacksaw.)
- Cut a hole in the lid of the rain barrel large enough to accommodate a flexible hose extender. Attach the extender to the shortened downspout and feed it through the hole in the lid. Secure the lid to the barrel. To filter the water running into the barrel, you can also attach a mesh bag to the end of the extender and fix it in place with a rubber band. Remember to clean out the filter periodically to keep it from clogging.
Remember, not only are rain barrels perfectly legal and of great benefit in minimizing the costs of household irrigation, using a rainwater collection puts clean, additive free water back into the soil. This not only benefits the soil quality—it has a positive impact on the environment as a whole.
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