A rain barrel is any above ground container modified to receive, store, and distribute rooftop runoff for non-drinking uses. The typical size of a rain barrel is 55 gallons. The main components of a rain barrel are a connection to the downspout, a filter to prevent mosquitoes from entering, a faucet to allow for regulated usage, and an overflow pipe to divert the excess water.
The City of Lincoln offers a Build-Your-Own Rain Barrel Class at Southeast Community College, all supplies are provided. If you are interested in joining us, classes are being held in the spring!
The rainwater collected can be used to water lawns and gardens or wash cars and bicycles. Rainwater collected within the barrel is safe for plants because the typical minerals and pollutants trapped in the rainwater are filtered out by plant roots. Rainwater collected in the rain barrel is not for drinking; rainwater is more acidic than tap water and may contain particulate matter from air pollution.
Rain barrels cost anywhere from $20 to $300. The fancier the rain barrel, the more the cost. Costs can be reduced if the barrel is installed by the homeowner. In the summer, lawn and garden watering account for 40% of average household water usage. By adding a rain barrel, the need for municipal water is reduced. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, a rain barrel can potentially save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months.
Rain barrels come in essentially any design or style. However, most regular rain barrels are usually black or blue plastic. Since only a ½ inch rainfall on a 160 square foot roof will fill a 55 gallon rain barrel, some people choose to get a tandem barrel (2 barrels at 1 downspout) or another barrel at a different downspout.
The barrel will require periodic cleaning. A safe cleaning solution is 2 teaspoons of castile soap and 2 teaspoons of vinegar per gallon of water or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice per gallon of water. In the winter, the barrel will need to be emptied and disconnected from the downspout.