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Florida-Friendly Landscaping: Adopting Water-Conservation Practices with Rain Barrels

The article was written by UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Horticulture Extension Agent: Lorna Bravo

South Florida receives an average of 62 inches of rainfall per year. Most of this water washes off green lawns and pavements carrying fertilizers and other chemicals into local waterways. A rain barrel is an inexpensive way of capturing and storing some of this water for later use.

What is a rain barrel? A rain barrel serves as an efficient system that collects and stores Florida’s rainwater from your roof. Rainwater that would otherwise be lost to run off and diverted to storm drains and streams. Recycled watertight food-grain barrels are used to collect rainwater from the roof of a building via the gutter and downspout. One can use any container; food grade is not necessary as water is not potable. However, be sure the barrels have not previously stored chemicals harmful to plants, animals, or humans. Recycled watertight food-grain barrels are used to collect rainwater from the roof of a building via the gutter and downspout.


Rain Barrel Placement on Property

Locate rain barrels under downspouts where rainwater can be most easily collected for transport away from building foundations.
The downspout allows the rainwater to flow into a barrel placed underneath it. The barrel should have a spigot and have a hose that may be attached. Place barrel high enough off the ground (24″ to 36″). When the faucet is open, the force of gravity can assist in releasing water. The overflow hose directs rainwater away from the foundation if the rain continues after the barrel is full. Check HOA Deed restrictions, city building landscaping codes. Keep rain barrels independent from sprinklers. Place rain barrels higher to give you better water pressure. Be sure to use opaque color barrels to retard algal growth.

Rain Barrels-Water Quality

Rain Barrel Placement on Property

Challenging to install gutter and downspout? Use a Rain Chain

Use a rain chain to move water. Rain chains come in many shapes, colors, and materials. They can also be purchased very economically from sources online.

Benefits of Rain Barrels

Rainwater collection is always beneficial, whether the water is used to water one houseplant or an entire garden. Even though a small rain barrel may not provide all the water needed to sustain your yard, it can certainly supplement your current watering habits.

Rain Barrel Applications
1-Conserve water

Half of all potable (drinking) water in South Florida is from outdoor irrigation. You can use rainwater instead of municipal water for outdoor uses. A rain barrel is an inexpensive means of capturing high-quality water for later use.

2-Reduce Stormwater Runoff-Divert water from storm drain systems

Most of the stormwater  flows off impervious surfaces, such as roofs and pavement, picking up fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants which often end up in local streams, rivers, pond, lakes and marine waters contributing to non-point source pollution. Keeping and applying rainwater on your property helps reduce pollution, erosion, and improves Florida’s local watershed health. Please remember that what goes in your storm drain can find its way into our water sources.

3- Direct Overflow-Plant a Rain Garden

Encourage water away from building foundations to more desired locations.
You can plant a rain garden and direct stormwater runoff toward rain gardens and plants that thrive in wet conditions.

How Much Water Can I Collect?
Rain Barrels

How Much Water can I collect?

Were you aware that a full 55 rain barrel gallon will water a 200 square foot garden? You can collect about 220-gallon storage with four 55 gallon rain barrels. To calculate the square footage of roof that drains to each gutter, linked to the rain barrel. Homeowners can calculate the yield of their house roof by multiplying the square footage of the roof by 623 and dividing by 1000. One inch of rainfall over a 1000sq.ft. roof area yields over 600 gallons of water.

Water quality:

By installing a rain barrel you”ll not only help reduce pollution by reducing the stormwater run-off from your yard, but you’ll also have a supply of free non-chlorinated soft water for irrigating your landscape!

Rain Barrel Maintenance

Cleaning the inside of the barrel periodically is an important step in keeping a rain barrel working. Make sure to check overflow hose for clogs, tank fittings for overflow hose and hose bibs, and inspect tank for crack or buildup of debris in the bottom.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping & Rainwater Harvesting

The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) program promotes several environmentally friendly landscaping practices intended to protect natural resources with proper maintenance and water-wise irrigation. The program helps residents conserve water by adopting and installing water-conservation practices and technologies in their home landscapes. Incorporating water harvested in a rain barrel with Florida-Friendly landscaping will help you enjoy your Florida landscape year round.
Check with your city Code Inspection and HOA to be sure rain barrels are allowed. For Florida-Friendly Landscape rain barrel questions, please email to or call UF/IFAS Extension Broward County at 954-756-8533.

UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Rain Barrel Workshops

UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Florida-Friendly Landscaping program can help you capture and use our abundance of free non-chlorinated soft water with a rain barrel for irrigating your landscape.
Rain barrels have been around for years! The Broward County Extension is offering a series of Rain Barrel-Water Conservation Workshops. These workshops allow the residents of Broward County to learn essential water conservation issues, order a rain barrel, and teach how to construct and install their very own rain barrel in their yards. Schools, homeowners associations, and garden clubs can also request a presentation. You can email Lorna Bravo at

UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Art in The Garden Event

Start a new trend by placing artistic rain barrels around your house. You will be teaching and encouraging others in your neighborhood to do the same. Also, the act of collecting rainwater can be an inspiration to find other ways to conserve water around the home. Every fall, UF/IFAS Extension Broward County hosts a fun family event called Art in The Garden. This year we will be conducting rain barrel workshops and demonstrating how to build and decorate one! Come and join us. You can contact us at 954-756-8519 or email to get more information about Art in The Garden Fall 2019 event. To register:

Water Quality

UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Rain Barrel Workshops

Resources to help you reduce Stormwater Runoff

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