Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Barrel o' water

Well, we finally did it! This weekend Mark installed our first Rain Barrel! I have been researching this project for over a year now, so to finally have it complete is just so exciting for us. I could not have done this without my sweet husband. And the icing on the cake was watching the enjoyment he got out of building it. He had so much fun, and THAT, made it even more rewarding than ever.
After all the scattered information I found on the internet, I decided that I would document the process in hopes that someone else might try to create their own water storage system. If just one person read this and created their own and then passed on their knowledge to the next and so on, just imagine all the water we could save together. And imagine how happy our plants and our water bills will be! Pass it on!

The first thing you need to do is find a barrel. Now, there are several options for a collection container. They're all over the internet, and if you have the right connections, you might even be able to bum one off a manufacturing facility of some sort for free. If you want one with a spigot already installed your price will definitely go up, but if you're like me, and just don't want to deal with it, you'll spend the extra $25-$30 for the pre-made barrel. I did some reasearch and found some onCraigslist and Ebay. I chose to buy mine from Ecowise. I appreciate that their barrels are rescued from their journey to the dump and recycled, instead of being manufactured for the sole purpose of profit. Their price was one of the cheapest I found too. About $55.00. If you live in Austin (or even some MUD's) you can get a discounted Rainbarrel, or a partial refund. For more info. see the City of Austin website.

So now that you have your rain barrel, you need to find a location that will work for you. For me, I needed to a spot that somewhat inconspicuous since we do have a neighborhood association, and as silly as it seems, I would probably get a complaint for my "unsightly" barrel. We found the perfect spot right next to the down spout for the rain gutters that's hidden from the street by a red tip bush. This also happens to be a high spot on our lot, which will help gravity do it's thing.

Next, Mark leveled out the ground for a good sturdy foundation. He used rocks and square pavers to do this. He decided to have a slight slope to further aid in the draining of the barrel.

After he had the perfect spot created, Mark got to work building the stand. The higher you go, the better flow you'll get. I'm not even going to attempt dimensions right now, but I think each project will be different depending on the size of the barrel and the space you have to work with. If you want specific dimensions, feel free to email me and I'll get the measuring tape out there. Our barrel is 55 gallons, so we needed to create a structure that could hold up to 500 pounds. You will need to make sure your structure is sturdy enough for YOUR barrel. A gallon of water weighs approximately 8.34 pounds. Oh and FYI before your shopping trip, Mark ended up using about a pound of screws.

After the stand is complete, you can start working on the diverter. There are a few pre-fab diverters that I've seen online, like this one at composters.com
Or, you can go to a home improvement store and create your own, as Mark did.

The top of the rain barrel is solid, so you'll need to measure and cut a hole for your tubing. Another important step you can't forget is to install either a screen or a trap that keeps debris from getting in to your barrel. HD sells a trap that fits in to the tubing perfectly, or you can install a screen before the entrance to the barrel.

This project took about 4 hours to complete, but a majority of that time was spent just figuring it all out with trial and error. If he had to do it over again, he could probably do it in half the time with the above information.

Now how crazy is this, within an hour or so of completion we got our first down pour. And 24 hours later, our barrel was FULL. Someday, I'd like to have the ability to store 500+ gallons of water. :)

Here are some more resources for Rainwater Harvesting:

Rain Barrel Suppliers

Garden Water Saver

Eagle Peak Containers

Global Issues

Texas Rain Water Harvesting Manual

Our next project is a compost barrel! Fun, fun!