If you walk into our office, chances are you will see a blue or white barrel (or several) sitting out. These barrels are actually donated food-grade 55-gallon drums that we turn into rain barrels. Rain barrels come in all shapes, sizes, and designs -- but in simplest terms, a rain barrel is a container that captures water off of a roof via a downspout during a rain event. The captured water is most commonly used to water plants, grass, and garden beds but can also be used to wash cars or rinse off outdoor furniture. The only thing you shouldn't do with rain barrel water is drink it -- I repeat, this water is not for human or pet consumption because it could pick-up bacteria or other harmful substances from your roof.
As mentioned earlier, rain barrels capture water that falls on a roof during a rain event. When a rain barrel is not installed, rain water flows down your downspout either to a lawn/garden bed or the driveway/sidewalk. If your downspouts are buried, the water is then transported to an underground outlet into the storm sewers. If your downspouts direct water into grass or garden beds, sometimes this is okay but other times it can cause flooding or pooling of water depending on the grade and type of soil and the duration/severity of the rain event. When water is directed to the driveway or sidewalk, it cannot penetrate the asphalt or concrete and has no other choice but to runoff. In doing so, it can pick-up pollutants, fertilizers, litter and more on its way to the storm sewers, where it is transported to the nearest waterway untreated and unfiltered.
However, if a rain barrel is installed, it diverts water out of the storm sewers and prevents potential water pollution, flooding, etc. Installing a rain barrel can also save you money. Water is getting more and more expensive these days. However, setting up a rain barrel will reduce the amount you turn on the hose and therefore, put money back in your pocket.
Now that you know the what and the why, let's get to the how. Rain barrels can be purchased online from many vendors, varying in price and design. You can order one directly from our office for $52 (plus sales tax) by either stopping in the office or ordering one through our online store. These are typically made-to-order so you will be contacted when it is ready to be picked up. You can also participate in one of Toledo/Lucas County Rain Garden Initiative's Make and Take Rain Barrel Workshops, where you get to learn about and make your own barrel. You can follow either Lucas SWCD or Rain Garden Initiative on social media to learn of workshop dates as they are planned.
Lastly, you can purchase the materials and make one yourself. Check out this video (see below) as we walk you through the steps to making a barrel of your own.
Now that you have the how, we will wrap up with just a few tips and reminders.
Proceeds from rain barrel purchases and workshop registrations support your local Rain Garden Initiative.