5 Great Rain Barrel Designs, Plus Top Tips for Using Them

What are some obstacles with using rain barrels?

One of the biggest issues in collecting rainwater is to keep it free of adhering debris such as leaves, bird manure and dead animals, and heavy metals and dust. Although rain water does not contain chlorine, contamination from airborne pollutants such as particulate matter can be a concern in urban or industrial areas where the rain first settles onto rooftops. Certain paints and roofing materials may cause contamination. Lead-based and acrylic paints on roofs can wash lead, detergents and other chemicals into the water tank. Runoff from fibrous cement roofs should be discarded for an entire winter, due to leaching of lime. When there is leaf debris, "ponding" of stagnant water in gutters can occur diminishing the water quality. Maintenance is important and involves checking rain barrels for vegetation and debris, maintaining screens around the tank, and every so often removing sediment by draining and cleaning the tank of algae and other contaminants. Some users recommend using mosquito donuts or dunks, to prevent growth of mosquitoes, a concern whenever there is standing water. "Mosquito Dunks" are available from Planet Natural. It is because of these maintenance and potential health issues that many authorities discourage or forbid the use of urban collected rainwater for human consumption.

Using rain barrels can improve the watershed

Widespread use of rain barrels changes the amount of rainwater draining into a watershed. If collected water is used within the watershed in which it is collected, rainwater collection can stabilize flow in rivers and provide more regular and filtered groundwater transfer into ponds. Also, community gardeners use rain barrels and other systems - like cisterns -to harvest rainwater as the main source of water for the garden. Gardeners have often taken the lead in rainwater harvesting. In NYC efforts began in earnest around 2001 when the city had drought and gardens were denied hydrant access for watering. Rainwater harvesting in gardens led to the formation of Water Resources Group (WRG) as a think tank for rainwater harvesting materials, tech and policy. WRG is building 40 new tanks this spring. If taken seriously on an urban watershed scale rain barrels can be really effective for CSO reduction, stormwater management, potable water conservation and reducing the urban heat island effect. Rain barrels can also be a fun way to save water and save some money.

Following are some designs that we like:

1. Basic rain barrel system

All you need is a container. It is that simple and will set you back only 1 Ben Franklin. photo from THs own Alan Graham's rain barrels.

2. Hand painted rain barrels

Paintings are great because they give kids the chance to splash up the rain barrels with some color photo from CENYC's rainwater harvesting progam in NYC community gardens

3. Rainwater HOG modular spacesaving rainwater storage system

photo from inhabitat.com

4. Rain barrels with plantings

Cista's rainwater harvesting from Moss Sund. photo from groovygreen.com

5. Butt Butt Waterbutt

You gotta love the British. Butt Butt has a hefty 215 liter capacity and was available in 3 "skin tones" of white, tan and brown. I sadly say was available, as the Butt Butt was a limited edition and is no longer available. photo from tardigrad9's flickr page More on rain barrels Jack Johnson on Rainbarrels Kids Create Rainbarrels Rainbarrels in Ann Arbor Michigan Ways to Use Rainwater

Tags: Algae | Chemicals | Desalination | Drinking Water | Drought | Gardening | Insects | Water Conservation

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