Rainwater Collection System

6 Easy Steps to Setting Up a Rain Barrel Rainwater Collection System

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Do you want to store and use water? You’re not alone. There are thousands of ways to store and use water. I’ve built my fair share of rainwater collection systems, and tested a variety of different methods in the past. In my opinion, installing and using rain barrels for rainwater collection system is the easiest. When set up properly, a rain barrel can provide you with tons of free water that you can use to water your lawn and gardens, or even wash the car. As one of the cheapest forms of water collection, a rain barrel is a great way to help save water and money.

Rainwater Collection System

What is the easiest method of rainwater harvesting?

Setting up a rainwater collection system is a simple and effective way to capture and store rainwater for future use. The easiest method of rainwater harvesting is to install a rain barrel or rain tank at the point where water flows off your roof. This collects the rainwater, which can then be used for watering plants, flushing toilets, and for other non-potable uses. The collected rainwater can also be filtered and purified to make it suitable for drinking. Rainwater harvesting is a great way to conserve water and reduce your water bills. 

Read more about water conservation here: World Water Day: 10 Ways You Can Protect Groundwater

Can you legally collect rainwater in the US?

In the majority of US states, harvesting rainwater is either not regulated or actively encouraged by state governments and individual counties as a way to conserve water, manage stormwater, and make water available in homes and businesses.  However, the laws governing rainwater collection vary from state to state, so it’s important to do your research and find out what the laws are in your area. 

Additionally, some states may require you to obtain a permit if the amount of rainwater you’re collecting is over a certain amount. In most cases, however, you should be able to legally collect rainwater for personal use without any problems.

Colorado and Utah are the only two states among the lower 48 with restrictions regarding rainwater harvesting. Although rainwater harvesting has been used in other countries for some time, it is only recently gaining traction in the US, as laws are just now starting to reflect its use. 

rainwater collection system
Rainwater collection system on my studio

What is a Rain Barrel?

Rain barrels are storage containers that connect to your gutter system and collect runoff from the downspout. To access the water, there is usually a spigot or hose connector attached to the barrel. Not only does rainwater harvesting provide an alternative to using municipal or well water for irrigation, but it is also free from chemicals and minerals found in tap water, making it great for your plants. 

Additionally, rain barrels can reduce the amount of runoff entering the storm sewer and keep pesticides, fertilizer, and other chemicals out of nearby bodies of water. They also keep the water from entering your home’s foundation, crawlspace, or basement.

What should I set my rain barrel on?

When setting up a rain barrel, the best surface to set it on is a level, solid, non-porous surface such as concrete, asphalt, or pavers. It’s important that the surface be level, so that the rain barrel is stable and does not tip over. 

Elevating the rain barrel is also recommended, as it makes it easier to fill containers or connect a hose to the barrel. If the surface is elevated, be sure to use something sturdy enough to support the weight of the barrel, such as concrete blocks, pavers, or a wooden platform. Additionally, the surface should be in a location where it can easily collect rainwater from your roof.

rainwater collection system

How high should a rain barrel be off the ground?

A rain barrel should be placed at least 12 inches off the ground. If you’re looking to increase the water pressure out of the barrel, then you may want to raise the barrel even higher off the ground. I prefer mine to be placed at a height of about 18 inches tall, as this makes it easier to fill 5 gallon buckets and watering cans.

Installing Your Rainwater Collection System

Before you install or use a rain barrel, make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and functioning. The process for setting up your rain barrel will vary by model, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Here are the basic steps to setting up your rainwater collection system:

1) Chose the location

Determine which gutter downspout you’ll use with the barrel. You typically want to use the downspout closest to where you will be using the water. 

2) Put together your rain barrel (rainwater collection system)

When it comes to setting up your rain barrel, the steps you’ll need to take will depend on your model. Be sure to read through the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, as they will tell you exactly what you need to do. Generally speaking, basic assembly of your rain barrel will involve installing the spigot or hose connector(s) and connecting an overflow hose. If your rain barrel is collapsible, you’ll need to follow a few more assembly steps.

3) Prepare the area

Before setting up your rain barrel, be sure to clear the area and create a level, stable surface. If you plan to place the barrel on the ground, dig out the area to a depth of 1 or 2 inches, and then use gravel, sand, or pavers for support. If you’d rather elevate the barrel, construct a sturdy stand or platform to keep it in place. Please note that the structure must be able to support the entire weight of the barrel when it’s full. For reference, a gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds, so a 40-gallon barrel that weighs 30 pounds empty will weigh more than 360 pounds when full.

4) Positioning the barrel

Place the barrel next to the downspout at its final, installed height. Make sure it’s level.

5) Attaching the downspout

Before you begin any modifications to a downspout, be sure to check the area for any heating or electrical cables. Make precise measurements and mark the downspout accordingly before proceeding. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for adapting the downspout to fit your needs. This could include:

  • Cutting the downspout to fit the barrel beneath it
  • Attaching an elbow section
  • Boring or cutting out a section to install a diverter
  • Replacing part of the downspout with a custom-made section
  • Using a flexible downspout extension to fill the barrel.

6) Direct the Overflow

 To ensure your home’s foundation is kept dry, direct the barrel’s overflow away from the foundation. Your barrel may already have an overflow hose installed, or you may need to install a gutter splash block under the overflow outlet. This will help divert the water away from the foundation.
rainwater collection system

Suitable Use for Your Rainwater

Rainwater that is collected in a rain barrel is not treated with chlorine or other chemicals. This means that it is safe for plants, but it is not safe for humans or pets to drink or use for cooking or washing. 

If you use the rainwater to water your herb, vegetable, or fruit plants, you should pour the water in the soil rather than pouring it directly onto the plants. Additionally, it is important to wash fruits and vegetables with tap water before consuming or cooking them if they have been watered with rainwater from your rainwater collection system. Finally, if any part of your body comes into contact with the collected rainwater, make sure to wash it with soap and warm tap water.

Avoid Breeding Mosquitoes

To prevent mosquito problems, equip your rain barrel with a debris screen over the main inlet. Ensure that all gaps are securely sealed with caulk to prevent mosquitoes from entering. Even with the screen, it’s possible for mosquito eggs or larvae to be washed into the barrel from the gutters. To avoid this, use the water promptly and add anti-larval tablets containing Bacillus thuringiensis to the barrel water to kill off any mosquito larvae.

rainwater collection system

Winterize Your Barrels

To prepare for cold weather, make sure to drain and disconnect your rain barrel. Change the direction of the gutter downspout so that it can properly handle any runoff. Before you store the barrel, it’s a good idea to give it a rinse. This will help to prevent any buildup of dirt or debris. We simply drain it, rinse it out and turn it upside down for the winter to keep water from freezing inside  it. 

Concluding Thoughts

To build a successful rainwater collection system, I would suggest identifying your priorities and planning accordingly. Start with installing at least one barrel initially, and then plan for more if you find them useful and cost-effective. For example, if you have a large garden and would like to use collected rainwater for irrigation purposes, plan for that purchase up front. 

Remember to consider the costs of any additional materials or setups you may require in order to install rain barrels where you need them. Finally, find out how much water you can expect to capture from your roof on a regular basis. This will help you feel confident that collecting rainwater is an effective way to conserve water and reduce your water bill.

Amazon has a variety of different rain barrel styles that are both attractive and affordable. Check them out here (I am an Amazon Affiliate). You can also find some great deals on Facebook marketplace. 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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