DALY: Rain barrels good water source for landscape

Drought conditions have returned to our area. If we do not receive any significant rainfall soon, water restrictions will probably be imposed. As a result, conserving water and finding alternative sources of it for our home landscapes will become more important.

One alternative is the use of rain barrels, containers that are connected to the downspout on a house or some other structure. They collect and store rainwater from roof tops that would otherwise be lost to runoff. By diverting some of the rainwater into the barrels, it will be available to water landscape plants. Next time it rains, think of all the water that is going down your driveway that could be used in your landscape.

What are some of the benefits of using rain barrels? In addition to being a source of water, they can help lower your water bill. They are inexpensive and easy to construct. Rain barrels require minimal space and usually take up no more than four square feet.

There are two options in setting up a rain barrel in your yard: you can buy one or build one yourself. It can be constructed rather easily using a 55-gallon plastic drum or a large sturdy trash can. Cut a hole on the top of the barrel that is large enough to accommodate the drain spout. Cover with a screen to keep leaves and other debris out. Drill a hole the size of the faucet six inches from the bottom of the barrel. Drill an inch wide overflow hole on the side of the barrel near the top.

Place the rain barrel on a sturdy flat base, such as cinderblocks or bricks that are elevated from the ground a couple of feet. Enough pressure will be generated to run soaker hoses from a barrel that is elevated four feet. Cut the down spout to just above the rain barrel. Slide the barrel under the spout lining it up with the downspout. Install a faucet in the bottom hole and connect a hose to it. Connect another hose to the overflow hole and point it away from the structure or connect it to other rain barrels. To prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the barrel, seal the openings with a fine screen or add a mosquito dunk, which contains a specialized type of bacteria that targets mosquitoes.

Rain barrels are a good way to provide water to parched home landscapes. They are a simple way to collect water that would otherwise be wasted.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu