Rainwater storage can help conserve water

by John Richardson, Master Gardener

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The idea of using stored rainwater to supplement home irrigation systems has gained greater acceptance in recent years.

As our population grows and the demand for clean drinking water increases, the use of non-traditional methods to water gardens, shrubs, or flower beds becomes more important.

Rain Barrel

Using stored water from rain barrels reduces the demand on public water systems for plant irrigation, leaving more potable water for human consumption and sanitation in the home. Water bills are reduced, and we feel good about conserving Florida's precious fresh water resource.

As we all know, we live in an area prone to periods of drought. Water restrictions are now the norm. So, storing and using free rainwater is a worthwhile endeavor.

Rain barrels are a part of water conservation just like other ways of reducing water consumption, such as low-flow toilets and water flow controls on shower heads.

The components of a rain barrel are simple. There is an opening at the top or side of the barrel for incoming water via a downspout. Depending on the model, a filter or screen may be used to keep out mosquitoes or falling debris.

An overflow spout is near the top to direct excess water away from the house and a faucet with a spigot near the bottom to deliver the water. Some rain barrels also have a top which opens for direct access to the water.

There are but a few considerations when installing a barrel.

First, gravity is the force responsible for getting water to your plants if a standard hose or soaker hose is attached to the spigot. Therefore, the barrel needs to be set on higher ground or set upon a base of concrete blocks or treated wood.

Second, if a hose is not used, make sure that the spigot height accommodates your watering can or bucket of choice.

Finally, it is usually necessary to adjust the downspout length to fit into the top of the rain barrel. A hacksaw or tin snips can be used to cut plastic or metal downspouts. There are also flexible plastic extensions available to customize the linkage between the downspout and the rain barrel opening.

The UF/IFAS Nassau County demonstration garden has a rain barrel on the west corner of the garden, near the Plumbago. Another rain barrel is installed at the extension office in Yulee. Two different installation methods were used, so they provide illustration of different configurations.

It is estimated that an inch of rain falling on the average 2,000-square-foot roof produces around 1,200 gallons of runoff - a staggering amount if only a portion could be stored for later use.

Remember, there are no water restrictions on using water from a rain barrel, and rainwater does not have the chemical additives used by public water systems.

The use of rain barrels can also reduce erosion around the house and the amount of pollutants carried into our water supply during heavy downpours. For more information on rain barrels, go to http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/barrels.htm.

Let's take care of our Earth and its unique life-supporting resource - water.

John Richardson lives on Amelia Island and is an active Master Gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS. For information on the Master Gardener program and application requirements, contact Becky Jordi at 548-1116 or rljordi@ufl.edu.






John Richardson

John Richardson lives on Amelia Island and is an active Master Gardener volunteer.