Rain or Shine
Tap into Florida’s free natural resource that falls from the sky.
Floridians know that when it rains, it pours, and Orlando averages more than 50 inches of rain each year. It’s no wonder more and more Central Florida residents are collecting and storing rainwater in backyard garden rain barrels.
“It’s pure, untreated, uncontaminated water that falls from the sky,” says Eric Rollings, who chairs the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District, a subdivision of the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. “In periods of drought, rain barrels are an essential source of free irrigation for Florida flower beds and landscapes. Plus, they reduce the need for additional water drawn from the aquifer.” With a little guidance and the proper tools, Rollings says, a rain barrel can help reduce your water consumption and utility bill while sustaining your garden through extended dry spells.
Store-Bought VS. DIY
Rain barrels can be purchased pre-assembled and ready-to-install from big box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot and even from your local nursery; prices range from $100-$300. Yet, one can easily and cheaply construct a rain barrel from a repurposed 55-gallon drum. The only real difference between store-bought and DIY rain barrels is aesthetics and cost. Rollings urges homeowners in search of repurposed barrels to look for ones previously used to store organic or plant-based materials in order to avoid any possibility of leftover contaminants. He adds that it’s important to invest in a good faucet: “Look for one that’s solid brass. Cheaper fixtures tend to rust and corrode due to exposure to water, sun and heat.”
Where to Put It
Place your rain barrel in a location where you can easily access it. “You’ll use it if you see it every day,” Rollings says. Some homeowner associations stipulate that it can’t be visible from the street, he adds, so be sure to check with your HOA first. If your rain barrel is connected to the downspout of your gutter system, you’ll want it on the side of the roof with the longest eave in order to collect the most volume. Another consideration: elevate your rain barrel. Raising it up on cinderblocks allows room for a hose connection, bucket or watering can to be placed underneath the faucet. And the higher you raise it, the stronger the water pressure. Just make sure your risers are level because a full rain barrel can easily tip over.
Keep In Mind
A rain barrel is only as good as its filter. The opening at the top of a rain barrel where water is collected is either attached to a gutter downspout or open to the elements, so it’s important to protect your tank from debris with a proper screen. This will prevent leaves and twigs from clogging the openings and turning your water into a murky tea while keeping pesky mosquitos from getting in and laying eggs. Some barrels come without pre-cut openings, which Rollings says require special attention. “You’ll need to use power tools so adult supervision of kids is an absolute necessity.”
Skyfall. A heavy rain shower can yield hundreds of gallons of water for even the most modest home. For example, a 1,000-square-foot roof can yield close to 625 gallons of water from a summer thunderstorm producing one inch of rain. For more information about rain barrels and home water conservation tips, visit orangeconservation.org