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Rain barrels can help in watering the home landscape

With the total outdoor watering ban affecting most homeowners, it's necessary to find alternative ways of watering the home landscape. Rain barrels are a good way to provide water to parched home landscapes.

A rain barrel is a rainwater collection system that is connected to the downspout from a house or another type of building. The collected water in a rain barrel would normally come out the downspout, onto a paved surface and eventually into a storm drain.

Why use rain barrels? They can save on water costs, and can also be a source of water during water restrictions and bans. A typical rain barrel can save about 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months.

Rain barrels reduce water pollution by keeping some of the storm water runoff, which can contain pollutants like sediment, oil, grease, bacteria and nutrients, from entering drains and going into bodies of water.

Rain barrels are inexpensive and easy to construct. Collected rainwater is better for plants because it's not chlorinated. The rain barrels can slowly release the water over a one- to two-day period, allowing the water to seep into the soil and be used by plants.

How does the average homeowner set up a rain barrel? There are two options: buy a pre-made rain barrel through a garden center or through an online source, or build your own.

You can construct one rather easily using a 55-gallon, food-grade plastic drum or just using a sturdy trash can. In addition to the container, purchase a tube of sealant or caulking, mesh screen, mosquito brick, 1⁄2-inch faucet, downspout flex elbow and three bricks.

Drill three holes - two hole in the top, and one 6 inches from the bottom. The holes should be drilled the size of the 1⁄2-inch faucet. Cut a hole one-third the size of the top, and cover the opening with a mesh screen using the sealant. Also, cover the overflow holes at the top of the barrel with the mesh.

Place the rain barrel on three bricks next to the downspout. Enough pressure will be generated to run soaker hoses from a barrel that is elevated 4 feet. Cut the downspout to just above the rain barrel, and attach the flex elbow to the downspout.

Slide the barrel under the spout, lining up the mesh screen on top with the flex elbow. You may want to use a hose to fill up the gutter on the roof to make sure the barrel and its opening on top are in the right position. Add a mosquito brick every month, and enjoy the use of the barrel.

For more information on rain barrels and other rain water collection devices, visit www.southface.org.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.