Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rain Barrels

I'm really looking forward to the dry season here. Regardless of how I might answer if you were to ask me in January, Washington state actually has really nice weather. There are four distinct seasons, the snow is usually limited to certain locations, and the summer... oh, the summer!... is pretty much dry. Compared with my childhood summers on the East Coast, it's practically heaven to me- low humidity and the temperatures max out around 80 most of the time. (Anything above 80 and I'm a useless, sweaty mess.) In fact, the only thing I can think of to complain about is that we don't get many rip-roaring thunderstorms... one of the few things I miss from back east.

That being said, though, I realize that there are many places in the country these days who are dry as a bone. Climate change arguments aside, I think we can all agree on the fact that drought is a very real problem these days, and it's right in our own backyards. California, I'm looking at you.

Even though we live in a place that isn't known for its lack of rainfall, we do take steps to soften the load that we put on our well. At over 120 feet deep, we should be good to go on water for a long time- but at the rate they're building houses in our area, I can't help but wonder.

As I've mentioned before, I do like to incorporate things that don't take a whole lot of effort... and when it comes to water conservation, rain barrels are as easy as it gets. And, they're effective. But don't take my word for it, let's look at the math. The formula is as follows:

.623 gallons per sq ft, per inch of rain x Your roof sq ft x Total Inches of Rain per year

For us, the numbers look like this:  .623 x 1800 x 43= 48,220

Yes, you read that right- over 48 thousand gallons of water rolls off of our roof, in an average year. That's not even counting when it does snow. Amazing, right? It adds up fast!

We have two 55 gallon rain barrels. Seems small, in context, doesn't it? We're capturing and storing a mere fraction of one percent of the water that falls on our house, and yet it's enough to fill up the chicken and rabbit water bottles as needed, and still have plenty leftover for nearby plants. Get this, though: even if we had a 55 gallon water barrel on every single downspout on our house, we still wouldn't hit a full 1% of the total water that falls on our house. Crazy!!

Our setup is simple; the downspouts empty into an opening in the top of the barrel, which we left mostly intact to keep debris out of the water. There's a spigot near the bottom of the barrel, so the water is gravity-fed out through a hose when we open the valve. I do add a natural mosquito dunk to the water when the weather warms up, just to keep the biters at bay, but other than that, there's nothing to them!

Our rain barrels may not be the prettiest thing here, but the beauty is in their practicality and accessibility. And, they're not just for folks who live in rural areas- in fact, in cities, where water restrictions and metering are a factor, these are an inexpensive option for you to keep your garden going through the dry months. You can find ornamental ones for sale, if you're in an urban area and are worried about the aesthetic.

What about you- do you use rain barrels or other catchment systems? Are you thinking about adding one now?

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