Save Water and Money with a Rain Barrel
The rainy season is upon us in central Florida. And when it rains, it pours. On average, we get over 7 inches of rain in the month of June. Where does all this rain go? What if we could capture some of it and use it during dry times?
According to the University of Florida, central Florida residents in 5 counties (Lake, Orange, Polk, Seminole, and Osceola) currently use about 650 million gallons of water a day. The majority of this water is used for lawn and garden irrigation. As our population continues to rapidly grow, so will our water needs. Engineers have calculated that we can only draw 850 million gallons from the Floridan Aquifer without damaging the natural system. Luckily, there are ways to conserve water and protect this precious resource. One solution is rainwater collection and use.
A rain barrel collects rainwater that falls from the roof. This water can be used to water plants, flush toilets, wash cars, and many other non-potable (non-drinking) water needs. In times of disasters, this water can be a valuable non-potable water source. For every inch of rain that falls on 1,000 square feet of roof area, about 600 gallons of rainwater can be collected. Imagine the positive impact this could have on your water bill and the environment.
A Water Pollution Solution
Rain barrels can also reduce surface water pollution. When it rains, rainwater typically flows off of hard surfaces like roads, sidewalks, roofs, and parking lots. As it flows, it picks up pollutants such as fertilizer, pesticides, motor oil, animal waste, and litter. This polluted water flows into a nearby stormwater drain where it is piped to a stormwater pond or other water body.
Rain barrels are a type of Low Impact Development (LID). LID is a development approach that works with nature to treat stormwater as close to its source as possible. Other LID design tools include rain gardens, green roofs, swales, and permeable pavement. These systems are used to minimize stormwater runoff to protect water quality. Rainwater also contains nitrogen – a crucial nutrient for plants. By collecting rainwater and using it to water plants, you are “feeding” your plants while keeping excess nitrogen out of surface waters.
Rain Barrel Considerations
If you are interested in rainwater collection, you can purchase a fully assembled rain barrel or you can make your own. It’s important to use a mesh screen over the input of the rain barrel to protect against mosquitos. Rain barrels are typically 55 gallons, so in times of heavy rain they can fill completely. To maximize water collection, you can use a second barrel. Otherwise, install a diverter to divert water back to gutter system once the barrel is full.
To learn more about water reuse and conservation visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_water_conservation