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Sustainability - Rain Barrels

Updated on September 2, 2014
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Yvonne is a Louisiana Master Gardener and a former president of the Folsom Native Plant Society. She gives talks about sustainable gardens.

One of Our Rainwater Harvesting Systems

Our Fiskars 58 Gallon Rain Barrel and harvesting system.
Our Fiskars 58 Gallon Rain Barrel and harvesting system. | Source

Today's Rain Barrels

Rain barrels have long been used to collect rainwater for human use. It is still a viable option for those wishing to help the environment by both reducing storm water run off and utilizing a valuable resource. Harnessing rain water is a key component of sustainable gardening and flood control.

Rain water is free. Old gardeners will tell you that there is some magic in the way plants respond to rain water.

Today's rain barrels come in many sizes and shapes. Many are closed systems, which harvest the water directly from the rain gutters through ingenious fittings and valves or screens. These do not allow mosquitoes or debris to enter the rain barrel. Most have run off features that send the water to another place when the barrel is full.

We set up one of these new closed system types by our screen house way down at the river. We went one step further and built a mini water tower to increase the speed of the water flow.

This page is all about how to set up and use the newer closed system water barrels and it's also about the variety of styles which are available.

Views of the Rain Harvesting System

You cut a section out of the down spout so that the hose will be level.
You cut a section out of the down spout so that the hose will be level. | Source
A garden hose can be connected to the spout.
A garden hose can be connected to the spout. | Source
We secured our rain barrel to the tower with bungee straps.
We secured our rain barrel to the tower with bungee straps. | Source

Rain Barrel Installation

The 58 gallon barrel rainwater collection system is made by Fiskar. It was relatively easy to install. The barrel came with all the necessary valves, adapters and hoses. A little booklet with very detailed and well illustrated instructions was also included.

The adapter that fits onto the gutter down spout contains and overflow valve which sends the water back down the spout when the rain barrel is full.

The rain gutters are the leaf free kind. These help to insure that little or no debris gets into the barrel.

It is not necessary to put it up on a tall tower like we did, but you should put it on a level surface about 1 foot high so that the water from the barrel will flow well. The higher you can put the barrel, the faster the water will flow.

Our rain barrel will provide readily available water for our screen house. For now we will just attach a short length of hose to the nozzle on the barrel. Later we will set up a basin, probably inside the screen room.

We have access to river water, but sometimes, when the river is low, we have to haul the water up a high bank. With the rain barrel, if we need to water some new plants or wash our hands or cool off, we can just turn on the spout.

The rain barrel is about a year old and are very pleased with it. They recommend that you disconnect it and turn it upside down during winter, but down here we have very few hard freezes so that hasn't been a problem.

2nd Chance relaxes in the screen room.
2nd Chance relaxes in the screen room. | Source

Planning to Get Another Rain Barrel or Two

The rain barrel does not obstruct the view of the woods. We can enjoy bird watching or just appreciate the mosquito free environment.

We plan to get another one when we have rain gutters installed on our house, but will probably get a different style. I think one that has a screen on top and can be used with a rain chain and adapter or perhaps with a spout that comes right from the rain gutter will work.

I've decided that I'm going to go ahead and order a rain barrel similar to the one in the how to video below and a rain chain flow adapter to see if it will collect water (without gutters installed) from the roof of our back porch. Instead of a purchased rain chain, I will use a heavy gauge galvanized chain. We have torrential rains here in south Louisiana and I want a chain that will not blow in the wind.

This type of rain barrel can be piggy-backed with other rain barrels to harvest 3 or 4 times as much water. You can also hook a hose to the overflow valve and send the water into a flower bed or garden.

I'll let you know how this experiment works out and will also take some pictures of my creation. I figure I can always use it when we get the rain gutters, if it doesn't work out as planned.

Rain Barrel How to Video

Open System Rain Barrels

My two new rain barrels are the standard "open system" type. The Sterling Rain Wizard has a 50 gallon capacity and the Kyoto Rbss-75 holds 75 gallons of rain water. Since I first wrote this article, rain gutters were installed in the problem area around the patio and along the front of the house.

Both of the open system barrels came with little or no assembly. The only thing we had to do was put the spigot on the 50 gallon one and then put it up on cinder blocks so gravity would improve the water flow and measure the downspout.

The 75 gallon Kyoto came assembled. I took it out of the box and leveled it up under a down spout. I'm still experimenting with it. Right now I'm using a flexible down spout, but I may use a regular straight one when I get more supplies. A rain chain would also work.

I am happy with both barrels, though the 50 gallon one is in a high water flow section so it filled up after only 1 rain. Both have overflow holes that send the water away from the house when the barrel fills up. You can also hook 2 or more rain barrels together with hoses.

Rain Barrel Poll

Do you use a rain barrel or some method to harvest rain water?

See results

Other Rain Barrel Designs & Rain Chains

Green Rain Barrel - 54 Gallon
Green Rain Barrel - 54 Gallon

This design has a screened top so that a spout or rain chain could be used. Two barrels could be hooked together with a hose using the run off valve located at the top.


How do you harvest rain water, or do you?

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    • Sedan profile image

      Sedan 3 years ago

      Great looking set up! I especially like the height of the rain barrel. It should provide plenty of pressure if you decide to hook up a soaker hose to it. Right now I am considering another rain barrel for the front of the house or getting a tumbler for composting.