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Saving Money Using Rain Barrels

It's garden planning time again!
This year I plan on planting an even larger vegetable garden and I'm still adding to my flower beds.

With the expansions will come more watering. Watering everything during a dry season out here can become expensive.

I still only had one rain barrel by my vegetable garden last year and plan to have a couple of more to water my flower gardens.

Adding a rain barrel is an inexpensive and effortless way to capture mineral- and chlorine-free water for watering lawns, yards, and gardens, as well as washing cars or rinsing windows. By harnessing what's literally raining from the sky, you'll not only notice a marked dip in water costs, but also a reduction in stormwater runoff, which in turn helps prevent erosion and flooding. Pop a screen on top of your barrel to keep out insects, debris, and bird missiles, and make frequent use of your water supply to keep it moving and aerated.

Rain barrels can collect water from roof gutters and downspouts, and some come with hose attachments for low-pressure watering in the yard and gardens. More and more counties and watershed districts are encouraging homeowners to use rain barrels because they collect roof runoff and store it for later use in lawn and garden watering, thus preventing stormwater runoff and reducing the amount of ground water used for lawn care.

How does it work? You can purchase a rain barrel at many major lawn and garden centers; many on-line retailers also carry a variety of rain barrels. You can expect to pay $80-150 for a 50-75 gallon barrel and accessories. Not very frugal in my opinion. Or you can build your own rain barrel out of a 55 gallon drum or trashcan much cheaper. You can also link rain barrels in series to store even more rainwater.

How much rain does it take to fill my rain barrel? Not as much as you think. It is easy to calculate how much rainwater your roof generates. The constant to remember is: 1" of rain will produce 625 gallons of runoff from a 1000 square foot roof, or 625 gallons per 1000 square feet.

Say you want to install a rain barrel to catch runoff from half the roof of your double garage. Let's say that eave and downspout catches runoff from 250 square feet of roof. Multiply 250 square feet by 625 gallons and divide by 1000 = 156.25 gallons produced from a 1" rain. A 1/2" rain will fill up your 75 gallon rain barrel.

That is 75 gallons of FREE water in one barrel after a moderate rain fall.

One reason why I didnt add the two rain barrels last year was I was wanting free barrels and never got around to making my contact. I know now where to get them so I'm excited to be moving forward with these plans. If you need barrels call restaurants, car washes and schools and see if I you can score some free barrels.

Do any of you utilize rain barrels? I would love to hear from you and see any pictures you have posted.


  1. We'll be installing couple of these as soon as we get new place. It's something that my DF brought up right away and I'm looking forward to doing this!

  2. This a terrific idea! I just wish we got more rain so that I could do this. If I lived in the NE, I would definitely be making these work for me.

  3. Jenny I knew you and DF would enjoy this post. You guys will be able to benefit from them greatly.

    Precious I thought about you when I posted this. I wasnt sure about your yearly rainfall and if it would help you or not. What is your average rainfall there?

  4. Hi Lisa,

    Our average rainfall in a year here is 8.7 inches and we are usually below avg. the last few years.So you see where a rain barrel wouldn't do us much good. For example: we will probably won't get any rain between now and end of July. Then we might get an inch or more in monsooon season. Plus the rainwater would evaporate pretty quickly in the rain barrel here because we are such a dry climate. So in order to keep our vegetation alive we have to water all year round.We have to add water to our pool from now to November weekly because of evaporation. Thank God for automatic equipment on the pool that does this for us.

  5. Precious I agree if you were to utilize rain barrels you would have to use the water quickly before it evaporated. I really had no idea what your annual average was though. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lisa,

    Years ago I did something like this, but very amature. Just an old plastic 35 gallon trash can. I don't even think it was under the downspout! It was my mama's idea. I used the water to water the indoor plants. They seemed healthier for it!