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As rain barrel use grows so do questions and answers

Call it Yankee ingenuity if you will, but Americans are becoming more curious – and acceptable – of the idea of using rain barrels on their property because they have figured out ways to make them look good and operate properly.

This newest wave of acceptance for rain barrels is fueled mostly by the growing green movement – because the rain barrel captures rainfall and directs it back toward trees and plants, instead of down driveways and streets into the sewer system. It is also fueled by a better understanding and growing knowledge of what the barrels do and don’t do, in addition to addressing some common worries about placing these rain collectors near a home.

First, it seems that most fears about rain barrels have to do with the nuisances they attract, as they can become an inviting breeding ground for mosquitoes or a gathering spot for thirsty animals. The solution is fairly obvious. It is highly recommended that a screen, much like those used on windows, is placed atop the rain barrel. A good caulking job at the spot where the downspout comes into the barrel can fill up any potential gaps.

Those not familiar with rain barrels seem to think you have to scoop the water out of the barrel with a pail or bucket when you want to use it for watering. A rain barrel with a hose fitting is the most common, and it allows you to just screw on a hose and start watering when needed.

There are also general concerns about rain barrels in terms of the amount of rainwater they can handle. Or, more accurately, will a rain barrel ever overflow during heavy rains, or will it go dry quickly during dry spells?

Experts reveal that every inch of rainfall on a 1,000-square-foot roof will result in 600 gallons of rainwater collected. This basically means you will fill a barrel, or several barrels around your home, in very little time. Those thinking in terms of saving money on tap water usage can get very interested in a rain barrel with those kinds of numbers. A watering can will be used hundreds of times with that kind of rainwater storage on your property.

If you live in a rainy part of the country where, say, it is not uncommon to get 20 inches of rain in the spring and summer, it adds up quickly to as much as 12,000 gallons of free water. It makes sense to build or buy a rain barrel that has an overflow mechanism, such as an inside tube that directs water away from a house to garden or yard.

And finally, after all of the financial and conservation savings on tap water use, those who support the rain barrel concept simply feel that rainwater is excellent for lawns, flowers and trees. There is no denying that argument, based on how plant life has flourished from rainwater since the dawn of time.


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