Conserve Water with a Rain Barrel

Floridians use more water than any other state for irrigation, and a typical home sprinkler system can account for half of the household water bill during the summer. The Panhandle of Florida also receives an average of 65 inches of rain a year, the highest in the state and nearly twice the national average.

One of the most convenient and efficient ways to conserve water is to install a rain barrel. Modern rain barrels involve ancient technology that relies simply on gravity, allowing stormwater to run from a rooftop into a gutter. The gutter funnels water into a plastic food-grade barrel or other container fitted with screen to keep out debris and insects. Most rain barrels also have an overflow device near the top (for heavy storms that might fill the barrel) and a spigot at the bottom for filling a watering can or attaching a hose. Keep in mind the barrels do not have a lot of pressure and cannot irrigate an entire lawn, but are ideal for vegetable gardens and container plants. Rain barrels vary widely in design, but they can be painted to add a decorative touch, or easily screened behind a shrub.

Building a rain barrel is a great summer project for the whole family!
Building a rain barrel is a great summer project for the whole family!

In addition to conserving water, rain barrels can be an effective means of reducing stormwater pollution. During a typical 1” rainstorm, an average home’s roof can yield 600 gallons of rainwater runoff that would normally flow downstream, picking up oils, bacteria, trash, fertilizer, and pesticides along the way that end up in our water bodies. These pollutants eventually flow downstream to our creeks, bayous, and bays, contributing to non-point source pollution. Rain barrels interrupt that process by collecting stormwater runoff before it has a chance to pick up pollutants.

If you are interested in learning more about rain barrels or how to build your own, Escambia County Extension will be hosting two rain barrel workshops this summer, the first on Friday, July 12 and the second on Saturday, August 3. There is a $42 charge for those wishing to build their own rain barrel after the workshop—all supplies and tools will be provided. To register for the full workshop, go online at

It is free to attend and hear the talk without building a barrel, but please reserve a spot by contacting me at 850-475-5230 or


Posted: June 25, 2013

Category: Coasts & Marine, Water

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