Rain barrels - the ‘gateway drug’
During my classes on rainwater harvesting and water conservation, rain barrels are discussed and referred to as a “gateway drug.” I say this in a tongue-in-cheek, positive way. Rain barrels are popular and an inexpensive way to get started saving water. They come in a range of colors and shapes, and have become widely available. So catching FREE rain, how could someone possibly be making a poor decision?
Don’t get me wrong, catching rain is a great thing to do. A mere half-inch of rain off a 500-square-foot garage roof will generate 155 gallons of water (.5 inches x 500 x .623). That’s more than three times what a typical 50-gallon rain barrel will hold. Once someone is convinced that capturing rain is a good thing and more importantly is committed to capturing this free water, he may then see water flowing over the top of a newly purchased rain barrel. Now the horror sets in: how much free water is being wasted!
At this point, folks will generally go one of two ways. Some will buy more rain barrels, then link them together to increase storage. Others will determine they need to figure out a different approach and will sign up for a class or hire a professional for advice on capturing that overflow. Often the better way is to ditch the 50-gallon rain barrel and go with a larger barrel — 200 gallons or more— or install a passive rainwater systemwith no barrels at all!
It is for this reason I call rainbarrels the gateway drug. They are the path that many folks travel. It is the entryway for people to become aware of how much rain actually falls on their house and property. Every drop we can keep on our property is better for the neighbors and better for our plants, and reduces our reliance on the water-grid.
The City of Santa Fe helps with this process by offering rebates for purchasing rainbarrels and larger tanks. More information can be found at www. savewater.com/rebates
Rainbarrels are a great starter; but if possible go bigger or go passive. And if your water conserving habits become addictive, seek professional help.
Doug Pushard, founder of the website www.HarvestH2o.com, has designed and installed residential rainwater systems for over a decade. He is a member of the Santa FeWater Conservation Committee, a lifetime member of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and an EPAWaterSense Partner. He can be reached at doug@HarvestH2o.com.
These old-fashioned wooden barrels look good, but only hold about 60 gallons apiece