How Rain Barrels Help Manage Stormwater

RAIN BARRELS for water conservation are good way to reduce stormwater runoff. Rain barrels are centuries-old technique used by many cultures to collect rainwater from rooftops for later use.

Some benefits of rain barrels:

  • Free rainwater - lower water bills and reduce water usage.
  • Reduced stormwater run-off (and associated pollutants) into local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Conserving water during hot, dry summer months.
  • Chlorine-free water for greener gardens.
  • Water from your rain barrel can be used for watering lawns and gardens, washing cars and household windows and bathing the family pet. Rain barrels are most effective if combined with other innovative storm water techniques such as rain gardens, green roofs, grassy swales and pervious pavers.

Pre-installation tips:

  • The overflow from the barrel must be directed into a landscaped bed or lawn area on your property at least four feet away from the foundation. The barrel must be placed on a flat and level surface. The barrel should be raised about two feet off the ground in order to enhance gravity flow into a hose, to easily fill a watering can and/or to empty it for cleaning and winter storage.
  • Cinder blocks, landscaping blocks, or a well built wooden box or platform will provide a good base for the barrel. Clean your gutters on a regular basis to prevent the buildup of organic debris (i.e. leaves). This will reduce debris from filtering into the rain barrel. Make sure your gutters are draining properly to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the gutter. If mosquitoes lay eggs in the gutter there is a chance of them being flushed into the barrel into the barrel during a rain event.
  • Rain barrels should be installed according to the instructions that come with the barrel.

Maintenance tips:

  • Early spring. Place the rain barrel under the down spout and begin collecting water for the growing season.
  • Late spring through early fall. Visually inspect the barrel to make sure the connections and fittings are in proper working order and the screen is clean of pollen and/or debris from the gutter.
  • Refrain from using the brass spigot of the other fittings as a means to lift and move the barrel;
  • If the rain barrel is full, make sure the top valve is open to allow overflow. The excess water must remain on your property; and make sure the screen is securely attached to the barrel to prevent mosquitoes (eggs) from entering the rain barrel.
  • Late fall. Before hard freezes begin, fully drain the barrel by first opening the water spigot, then open the bottom drain plug. Remove the lid and screen and turn the barrel upside down to finish draining the barrel. Rinse the barrel with fresh water to remove any seasonal organic debris. Because an empty barrel is light weight and winter winds can blow it away, either secure the barrel or store it in a protected place. Note: If the barrel contains water and is allowed to freeze, it may crack or be damaged.


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