Car­ing for rain bar­rels

GREENUP COL­UMN Tak­ing care of rain bar­rels be­fore win­ter hits will mean it will be ready for you in spring

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - KAREN HAL­LEY SPECIAL TO THE EX­AM­INER Karen Hal­ley is GreenUP’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing man­ager.

This year, the GreenUP Store sold 158 rain bar­rels with more than $3,100 of sub­si­dies given out by the Peter­bor­ough Util­i­ties Group. Sub­si­dies of $25 went to PUG cus­tomers to help en­cour­age the use of rain­wa­ter and the re­duc­tion of mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter for use on gar­dens and lawns.

We are halfway through Novem­ber now and we’ve had a small taste of win­ter with our first flur­ries ar­riv­ing last week. Tem­per­a­tures have been higher than usual this fall, so we have been able to store and use rain in our rain bar­rels a lit­tle later into the sea­son than in pre­vi­ous years.

Your gar­den­ing sea­son is likely long over, and you may not have needed the wa­ter over the last month or so, but it is pos­si­ble to keep your rain bar­rel hooked up un­til the freez­ing tem­per­a­tures ar­rive.

While many peo­ple choose to in­stall rain bar­rels as an ef­fec­tive way to gather rain for use on gar­dens, rain bar­rels also help to slow the runoff from storm wa­ter, which can then be di­verted to gar­dens or per­me­able sur­faces, and can help to re­duce flood­ing in ur­ban ar­eas. Emp­ty­ing wa­ter from a rain bar­rel onto any per­me­able sur­face around your home will al­low it to slowly in­fil­trate into the ground in­stead of run­ning off onto drive­ways or into storm sew­ers.

The rain will now be chang­ing to snow so don’t for­get to win­ter­ize your rain bar­rel. Whether you use your rain bar­rel to re­duce flood­ing or to re­duce your out­door use of mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter, if you haven’t al­ready done so, it is im­por­tant to get your rain bar­rel win­ter­ized be­fore things fully freeze up.

Tak­ing a few min­utes to care for your rain bar­rel will en­sure that it lasts for many years. Fol­low these four rec­om­mended steps to prop­erly store your rain bar­rel over the win­ter:

STEP 1: Drain all of the wa­ter out of the rain bar­rel and leave the spigot open

Any wa­ter that is left in the rain bar­rel can freeze over the win­ter and cause the plas­tic to crack. Drain all of the wa­ter out of your bar­rel be­fore freeze-up and leave the spigot in the open po­si­tion. This will en­sure that no mois­ture will re­main in the spigot that could oth­er­wise cause crack­ing or could break the wa­ter seal. If you like, give your bar­rel a rinse; some al­gae or de­bris may have made its way inside over the sea­son.

STEP 2: Re­move the lid and any­thing else that is at­tached to the bar­rel

De­tach all the com­po­nents from your bar­rel in­clud­ing the lid, over­flow valve, and hoses. All these should be drained of wa­ter and stored sep­a­rately from the bar­rel.

STEP 3: De­tach the bar­rel from the gut­ter or down­spout

De­tach your bar­rel com­pletely from the eave­strough, down­spout, or any flex­i­ble tub­ing that con­nects it to your home. Don’t for­get to reat­tached the length of down­spout that ex­tends your down­spout to the ground – you would have re­moved this when you in­stalled your rain bar­rel – but you will want it back in place dur­ing the Jan­uary thaw, and in the early spring be­fore you re-in­stall the rain bar­rel for the grow­ing sea­son.

STEP 4: Store your bar­rel up­side­down in a shed or garage, or a shel­tered area out­side

Stor­ing your rain bar­rel inside a shed or garage will help ex­tend its life. If you must store it out­side, choose a lo­ca­tion that is away from di­rect sun­light and where it won’t be car­ried away by the wind. Be sure to store it up­side-down to pre­vent wa­ter or snow from col­lect­ing inside.

It is also a good idea to clean and main­tain your eave­stroughs and down­spouts by re­mov­ing leaves and de­bris that can clog up gut­ters and rain bar­rels. This will leave an open path­way for rain to flow through dur­ing win­ter thaws and will make for quick and ef­fi­cient rain bar­rel setup come spring­time.

If you use a rain bar­rel, you likely un­der­stand how far stor­ing wa­ter goes when it comes to keep­ing down your over­all me­tered wa­ter us­age. Each bar­rel that GreenUP car­ries holds be­tween 190 and 220 litres.

If all of the rain bar­rels sold at the GreenUP Store over the last two years were filled and drained only once this year, then to­gether we di­verted be­tween 60,000 and 70,000 litres, or about 8,000 gal­lons of rain­wa­ter; that is equiv­a­lent to more than 660 bath­tubs full.

If you feel that the vol­ume of one bar­rel is not enough, or that you’d like to save more wa­ter, con­sider adding a sec­ond, or third bar­rel next year. Suc­ces­sive rain bar­rels can be hooked up to one an­other via the over­flow valve and hose to save even more wa­ter each time it rains.

The GreenUP Store will be car­ry­ing the same lo­cally re­cy­cled, food grade bar­rels with brass fit­tings, over­flow valve and hose, and top net­ting again next year. Check out in spring 2018 for more in­for­ma­tion and for up­dates on Peter­bor­ough Util­i­ties Group rain bar­rel sub­sidy.


Tak­ing a few min­utes to care for your rain bar­rel will en­sure that it lasts for many years. If you haven’t al­ready done so, there is still time to win­ter­ize your rain bar­rel in four easy steps to prop­erly store it over the cold sea­son.

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