If you are concerned about conserving water resources and
have noticed runoff or erosion issues in your community, your
home might be the perfect environment for a rain barrel!
You’ll especially love rain barrels if you are busy gardening
during the summer months.
According to the United States Geological Survey, a 1-inch
rainstorm over a 40×70 foot roof can equal over 1,700 gallons
of water. Imagine all the ways you could use that water if you
could keep it on your property! That is where rain barrels
Rain barrels utilize a large container that is designed to collect
rainwater. These can be either store-bought or homemade, but
the purpose is the same: collect rainwater for plant irrigation.
Rain barrels can reduce flooding along with irrigating plants
like woody and herbaceous ornamentals along with lawns.
Rain barrels also direct water away from home foundations
and therefore can prevent basement flooding and save on
costs. In addition, rain barrels reduce the amount of water
running into lakes and rivers, thus reducing erosion and
storm water pollution.
Now is the time that you might ask yourself, “Is the water safe
to use in my vegetable garden?” Unfortunately, there are
limited studies to answer this question fully, but a few have
been done on asphalt roofs. Because of possible leaching from
asbestos roofs, it is generally recommended to avoid using a
rain barrel to catch and use that water. Rutgers researchers
found that heavy metal and pathogen levels did not exceed
EPA standards, but precautions should be taken to minimize
risk. Most notably, the water should be treated with 1/8 a
teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water. This
amounts to about an ounce if you have a standard 55-gallon
rain barrel. After applying the bleach, wait 24 hours before
using the water.
Rain barrels should be installed on even surfaces that are
slightly raised to increase pressure and encourage the flow of
water when emptying. Be sure to secure the rain barrel to
prevent tipping as they are very heavy when full and can be a
hazard. Be sure the inlet leads is protected by a screen to
prevent debris from clogging your hoses.
To maximize the conversation impact of your new rain barrel,
consider planting drought resistant plants such as native
Illinois prairie plants. These plant roots are deep and can
handle large rainfalls along with the hot dry summers.
Consider planting them along the path of your rain barrel
overflow spout to create a small rain garden and absorb the
By Gemini Bhalsod
Source: gardeners_corner_2019_summer.pdf (illinois.edu)