Capturing and Reusing Rain Water in Rain Barrel
Photo via Mindy McIntosh-Shetter on Urban Garden Casual

Photo via Mindy McIntosh-Shetter on Urban Garden Casual

With the Midwest getting so much rain lately, it’s a shame to let it all go down the drain — so to speak. The best way to repurpose this water? By collecting it in a rain barrel and recycle it into the garden and lawn, not only are you saving water, you are saving money.

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How to Build a Rain Barrel from Mom Prepares

Rain Barrel
Rain barrels are a great way to control run off and conserve water.  It lacks chlorine and fluoride that is found in many municipal water supplies.  Natural rain water is softer and easier on your garden plants.
To capture runoff, place your rain barrel underneath the downspout where your rain gutter collects. Reusing the water is as easy as dipping your watering can in the bucket. You can also attach a pump to the hose on the bottom of the barrel and running another hose off of it.
Most cities sell or give them away; find out if they are doing so via the city website. Some also offer rebates. If your city does not offer them, Craigslist and Freecycle may be good options to obtain a rain barrel. Another option is making one with a repurposed barrel or garbage can or buying one at the store.
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Rainwater Harvesting via Kittleson Landscaping, Inc.

Collection System
If you want to go for more water, consider a collection system. These can be above or below ground and are much bigger than a rain barrel, so they can store a larger amount of water.
The ones above ground are attached to a down spout and have pumps to use in watering gardens and lawns. It’s also possible to attach this collection to your sprinkler system, so you don’t need to use water from the drain to irrigate your yard.
Below ground systems are attached to a downspout through a connection of pipes; this requires digging up the ground to place the collection container out of the way. The bonus of doing so includes not having to hide the unsightly container and it is less apt to freezing in the winter.
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Rain water pond

Collection Pond

Another option to a collection system that is fully enclosed is one that remains open via the top and feeds into an above ground water feature. The rain water is collected through the pond and goes through a collection of pipes connected to the downspout.
Things to keep in mind:
  1. Start small. You can always expand to larger containers as needed.
  2. Find a rain barrel that will fit in with your garden decor.
  3. Protect the ground and your garden from runoff in areas where you don’t have a collection container with concrete extensions. This allows the water to run away from your foundation and lawns.
  4. Use a screen on your collection container to keep out debris.
  5. Be aware of the toxins that leach off of roofing materials.  Avoid asphalt shingles if you are planning on using the rainwater for watering or growing purposes.
  6. Choose your collection canister wisely. Barrels made specifically for collecting rainwater can withstand freezing, expansion and distortion, while trash cans and other garbage collection containers generally won’t.
  7. Be safe.  Keep the rain barrel away from spots where children may consider a play spot, and don’t place it near stairs.
  8. Mosquitoes are attracted to water, and mosquitoes and other pests bring disease, so it is essential to either install some kind of system to keep these pests out or purchase an updated system with these blocks already installed.
  9. Keep your barrel off the ground. While not necessary, it will make it easier to get to the spigot, which is normally located on the very bottom of the barrel within a few inches of the ground. Using cement blocks to prop the barrel up will make access much easier.
  10. Clean your gutters.  Leaves, dirt, and other materials that often sit in the gutter can cause rainwater to become contaminated and unsafe.  It is especially important to clean the gutters before a big storm comes through if you are planning to collect water during that time.
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