Ever notice how much it rains in the southeast? Alabama alone receives an average of 55 inches of rain a year. Although this is a lot of precipitation it is still important to consider water conservation. Dr. Eve Bantley, a water quality specialist with Alabama Extension says rain barrels and cisterns are water conservation methods that require little maintenance and save money and energy.
For anyone interested in being connected to water conservation, Brantley says rainwater harvesting is great. Small barrels can hold 30 to 50 gallons and cisterns, which are larger, can hold 500 to 5,000 gallons. Common uses of water harvesting include: landscape irrigation, watering plants, and washing cars.
“The great thing about cisterns and rain barrels is that anyone can catch rain water and reuse it,” said Brantley.
With 55 inches of rain a year, residence of Alabama can conserve water, energy, and money by simply setting a barrel under a gutter or spout. Another positive aspect of catching rainwater is that it is can be used to water potted plants as well as plants in the landscape.
“Rain barrels and cisterns can vary in price, but expenses for a small barrel are minimal and maintenance is low,” said Brantley.
Rain barrels need to be cleaned or sprayed out once a year. Larger cisterns, however, may require more maintenance, especially after the leaves fall. It is also recommended that all large cisterns have a first flush diverter, which removes the first bit of rainwater your cistern acquires. Water removed by a first flush diverter may contain debris from the roof that can clog lines, so the purchase of a diverter is highly encouraged.
“In a one inch rain storm, a 1,000 square foot of roof sheds about 600 gallons of water,” said Brantley. “That’s a lot of free water.”
(The video above demonstrates how to construct a rainwater collection barrel.)
As far as placement goes, there is no set location for a rain barrel. Barrels can be out for the world to see, or tucked behind vegetation. People usual position rain barrels in a convenient location like near a garden.
In order to help people learn about water harvesting and rain barrel maintenance, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers workshops to educate the public. At a typical rain harvest workshop, participants can purchase a rain barrel for a small fee and learn everything there is to know about barrels, like maintenance, how to keep mosquitos out, what hardware is needed need, and plumbing options.
After attending a workshop and purchasing a barrel, all there is left to do is wait for the rain and enjoy an environmentally friendly, cost-efficient method to conserve water. It is important to note that drinking water from the barrels is not recommended. Without treatment, the water could contain bird droppings, leaves and other pollutants.
- How to Make A Basic Rain Barrel
- Rainwater Collection Systems
- Alabama Extension Water Programs on Facebook