Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Audio Play Icon Headphones Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon
Garden Lifestyle

Rain Barrels: Rainwater Irrigation

  • Photo by will merydith under the Creative Commons Attribution Licnese 2.0.
  • Photo by jbolles under the Creatibve Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • Photo by Ken Mayer under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

I think rain barrels are one of the best irrigation systems ever.

Water falls from the sky seasonally every year, and collecting and storing this precious resource for the sunny days ahead is brilliant. Not that this a modern idea by any means. What people have been collecting for centuries just happens to be coming back into vogue. Did you know that a mere 1 inch of rainfall can yield 600 gallons of water from a 1,000-square-foot roof? That’s a tall glass of water.

For those of you that aren’t entirely clear about my rant (and rave): A rain barrel is a large container (might be an actual barrel; might not be) that’s connected to the end of the downspout that descends from the ends of your gutters.

As the rain washes off the roof, instead of going through the downspout and becoming storm water run-off, it’s collected into a barrel. There’s usually a screen over any open areas to keep out debris, as well as to prevent mosquitoes from setting up home and reproducing.

Most rain barrels have a spigot at the bottom for easy filling from a watering can or bucket. They’re simply a win-win for any gardener, but they can be invaluable for those growing in the drier states such as California. Straight rainwater isn’t limited to the outdoors either. It can also be used to wash clothes, flush toilets, and wash cars.

Like everything else in life, there’s some controversy going on around rainwater collection. Some people refer to it as “natural soft water” because chlorine, fluoride, minerals, and other chemicals haven’t been added by humans. Still others claim there are impurities in rainwater due to chemicals leaching off of the roof itself as potential contamination from air pollution.

Another, perhaps even more interesting, fact is that it might just be illegal. That’s right. Apparently there are those who believe the water falling over your home doesn’t belong to you, and therefore it can be against the law to harvest it. So before you get all free-water-happy, be sure to check that it’s legal in your state.

View Comments


Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest

Magazine Cover

Take your passion for plants to the next level

Subscribe today and save up to 44%

"As a recently identified gardening nut I have tried all the magazines and this one is head and shoulders above the pack."


View All

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, become a member today.

Get complete site access to decades of expert advice, regional content, and more, plus the print magazine.

Start your FREE trial