Rain Barrels Growing in Popularity, Make an Impact on Water Conservation

rain barrelsHernando County residents who completed a rain barrel class at the county Extension office each took home their own rain barrel.

Darcy Paust used to collect rainwater in buckets placed around her Spring Hill home to water her plants. Then she read about a rain barrel class in the paper and thought having a rain barrel would be easier than collecting the water from her buckets.

Paust joined the thousands of residents who attend rain barrel classes at their county Extension offices each year. Class attendees learn about rain barrels and take one home with them at the end of the day.

“Our rain barrel classes have always been very popular,” said Audrey Durr, Citrus County Florida Yards & Neighborhoods (FYN) program coordinator. “I think they are popular because people have something to take home and it also allows them to feel that they are doing something concrete to make a difference and conserve water.”

Another reason the classes are popular is the price and convenience. Homeowners would have a hard time finding a barrel and the materials to make their own for the price the Extension offices charge because the cost of plastic is rising and the barrels are becoming harder to find.

“I used to be able to get the barrels for $12 to $15 each, and I could get them here in Hernando County,” said John Korycki, Hernando County FYN program coordinator. “Now I drive to Ocala to pick them up and they cost $23 each.”

Rain barrel programs vary by county. Some require a minimal fee to cover the cost of the rain barrel materials and some have limits on how many barrels you can obtain through the class.

rain barrelA hand-decorated barrel awaits the next rain.

Paust and her fellow classmates learned that it doesn’t take much rain to fill the typical 50- to 55-gallon rain barrel. Your barrel will be filled by a rainfall that yields one-half inch of precipitation. In fact, during a half-inch rainstorm, a normal roof of about 1,000 square feet can fill more than five rain barrels. That’s why some people want to have more than one rain barrel at their homes.

“I love my rain barrel and use it almost every day to water potted plants,” said Regina Ouimette, who brought her husband to the class to get a second rain barrel for their Spring Hill home. “One rainstorm fills it up and it never runs dry.”

The Ouimettes keep their rain barrel behind some lattice near their carport.

“I also painted flowers and butterflies on it,” said Ouimette.

Originally from California, Frank and Rebecca Burskey decided to attend a recent class because they wanted to learn about conserving water and growing better plants.

“Everything is so different here, we just want to learn how to do things right,” said Frank Burskey.

Before coming to the class, the Burskeys did a test run during a recent rainstorm by placing garbage cans near their downspouts to see how much rain they could collect.

taking it home

“We were amazed,” said Rebecca Burskey.

Although one rain barrel may not provide all the water needed to sustain your plant material, it can certainly supplement your current one-day-per-week watering schedule if you are hand watering potted plants, flowers, vegetable gardens or other non-lawn areas with water from your rain barrel. If you live in an area under modified Phase II water restrictions, hand watering can be done at any time. If you live in Charlotte, DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, where modified Phase III water restrictions are in effect, hand watering must be done before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

In addition to conserving water, using rain barrels will help reduce stormwater runoff. Rainwater can wash excess fertilizer, oil and other pollutants off your lawn, driveway and the street. These stormwater pollutants often end up flowing into nearby lakes and rivers.

If you would like to attend a rain barrel class at your county Extension office, pre-registration is required because space is limited. To find your county Extension office, visit SolutionsForYourLife.org/map/.

The District also has a free publication that offers step-by-step instructions for building your own rain barrel. To order the publication, visit the District’s web site at WaterMatters.org/publications/.

How Much Water Is Saved by Using Rain Barrels?

FYN staff in the University of Florida’s south-central district, which includes Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties, set out to find the answer to that question.

They asked people who participated in the rain barrel program to complete a survey to determine their rain collection and use patterns. It was determined that the 606 people who responded saved 325,936 gallons per year!

How much is 325,936 gallons? Think of it this way: It takes about 13,500 gallons of water to fill a 24-foot round swimming pool that is four feet deep. That would fill up 24 swimming pools!

During 2007 and 2008, approximately 5,000 residents from Citrus, Charlotte, Hernando, Hillsborough, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties participated in rain barrel classes. Imagine how much more is conserved by all of the residents using rain barrels who weren’t part of the survey!