Got Rain Barrel Questions?

Do you have burning questions about using or installing rain barrels that we haven’t answered?

Let us know, so that we can improve this site!







Leave us a comment with your question, and we’ll do our best to answer it for you. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll look it up!

{ 365 comments… read them below or add one }

BarklieZ April 24, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I’ve been using an oak wine barrel to collect rainwater since last Fall. This Spring, the water in the barrel (which I filter through coarse gravel) smells terrible. Can I use chemicals to clean it up without endangering the plants I’m watering? If so, what chemicals should I use/or any other cleaning suggestions.

Thanks!

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steve May 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm

@BarklieZ,

Bleach will help with this problem.
I recommend just a few tablespoons full of bleach at a time. This should help!
http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/faq/emerg.html

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mckenzie September 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm

if theres trash and leaves or any of that stof get like a net over the rain barrel instead of it going stright in it st the water doesnt get dirty

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Katherine Ratka May 4, 2010 at 1:35 am

Should green water in a rain barrel be treated? Is it harmful?

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steve May 6, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Not knowing what you mean by green water I can only assume you mean water that has algae in it. If so then you should drain the barrel and clean it with vinegar and water.

If you mean just water which has come off your roof then it’s not necessary to treat the water if used to water your plants or garden. You should never drink water from your rain barrel.

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Mike May 14, 2011 at 1:58 am

The algae is good for your garden; don’t do anything to it. The only concern is that mosquitos may breed in it. You can seal the top with window screen or drop “mosquito control” type tablets in.

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Laurie July 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Can you put mosquito control tablets in the water and still use it for watering plants (including vegetables and mint)?

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steve July 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm

@Laurie, It depends on which item you plan on using, if using the ones at the link below it will not harm your vegetable plants.
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/mosquito1.html

Mike June 24, 2012 at 4:12 am

Laurie….To control mosquitoes you might try putting a dozen minnows or more in your water holding tank…..minnows eat mosquito larvae…..you will also get the benefit of fish tea in your water….works for me…..!!!!

Nancy May 6, 2010 at 9:09 am

Do I need to clean the inside of the rainbarrel?
If so, how?
What kind of paint lasts/stays on the outside if I wanted to decorate it?

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steve May 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Nancy,

If the barrel is new and was not used store anything prior to you obtaining it then no, it’s typically not needed. However if the barrel was used to hold pepper or pickles, etc you way want to wash it out with water. Over time the smell will subside.

Remember if the barrel was used to hold a chemical or toxin it should not be used as a rain barrel.

If the barrel has mold in it, you can use vinegar and water to clean it out.

As for painting the barrel, check the label on the paint to be sure it will adhere to plastic, assuming you have a plastic barrel.

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Joey March 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I have three plastic barrels that had chemicals for cleaning in them. There must be a way to clean them for a rain barrel right? I mean wouldnt a good bleaching or vinegar work? I’m new to this.

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steve March 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Joey, Not knowing what chemicals were in the barrels I cannot give advice on them. I suggest recycling them and buying some food grade barrels.

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Jose May 25, 2012 at 12:07 am

I have a 55 gallon barrel that was used to store formaldehyde. Couldn’t that be cleaned somehow? Would sealing it in spray-on rubber or some type of sealant work? Or maybe a plastic liner?

DEBI May 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

How can I safely kill mosquito larve from my rain barrell and still use the water for plants? Thank-you

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steve May 19, 2010 at 4:08 pm

@DEBI,

Mosquito dunks will kill the larva and not harm the water.

Here is a link to a few options.

http://www.cleanairgardening.com/mosquito1.html
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/mosquitodunks.html

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greg February 10, 2012 at 12:13 am

throw some gold fish in it…they love mosquito larva

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Mary May 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

How do I prevent algae from growing in my rain barrel? But I would still like to be able to use the water in my gardening.

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steve May 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Mary,

Keeping your barrel out of the sun and or painting it a dark color will help prevent algae from growing. Also, make sure you have a screen to keep out bugs, leaves and other garbage out.

Using mosquito dunks will help some as well, plus it will keep larva from growing. Occasionally you may need to wipe the inside out with bleach; this will also help prevent algae from growing. Bleach is safe as long as you use only a few spoons full. http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/faq/emerg.html

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Patty Meadors June 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm

why not just put downspout in top of barrel sealed up. why open and with a screen on top?

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steve June 2, 2010 at 1:14 pm

@Patty Meadors, Fitting the downspout into the barrel is one option; however you will not be able to screen out the debris coming down from the roof. A screen helps keep out leaves, bugs, etc. Many people use the downspout diverter like this one; this allows water to continue down your downspout once the barrel is full.

http://www.cleanairgardening.com/gawadoat.html

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Raymond June 2, 2010 at 5:44 pm

hello,
we are looking into putting in a rain barrel. we would like to install one with a small pump so we can use a garden
hose and water anywhere in our yard. i found some pumps at the hardware store that are used in the plastic yard ponds. how many gph would be enough for gardening purposes. a 50ft hose will probably cover most of what we will be watering.
thanks,
Raymond

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steve June 8, 2010 at 8:02 pm

@Raymond,

We suggest a pump that pumps at around 5 to 10 gallons per minute. Any where in between should be suitable.
Here is a link to a quality pump so you can compare:

http://www.cleanairgardening.com/electric-water-pump.html

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Jayne Sweet June 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm

I have recently planted a school garden in a site used privously for a garden. There is no water source…..rainbarrel! The roof is flat and no gutters – what do I do to collect water for the waterbarrel?

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steve June 17, 2010 at 6:37 pm

@Jane Sweet, Even though the roof is flat, it still has to drain. Either check to see where the majority of the water falls and put some gutters there, or have gutters installed all around. Either way, capture as much as possible and this will help with your lack of water.

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Mairead May 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm

I am working on a school garden project and we would like to install a rain barrel. There are no visible downspouts. The building is 8 years old and I am guessing the downspouts drain into the ground. Can we use a rain barrel that doesn’t need a downspout? And how do we make sure it does not become a magnet for children. It will be near a play area, but not in direct sight of the playground.
Thanks
Mairead

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steve May 7, 2012 at 6:14 pm

@Mairead, Yes you can, however it is not recommended for two reasons. One, it will take forever to fill up, and two, in order to get it to fill up reasonable quick you need to leave the cover off which makes it a death trap. So in other words, it’s a bad idea to do this any other way than have the down spout fill the rain barrel, and make sure it’s covered tight so no one can get in it and drown.

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laura dahl June 29, 2010 at 5:08 am

a burning question. I have a cabin in the woods that has electricity but no running water. I want to be able to shower so… I recently connected a rainbarrel to a downspount on one side of my roof and put a submersible sump pump in the bottom of the rain barrel with a hose that leaves the pump and connects to a shower head and stall inside my cabin so i can take a shower( albeit a cold one) i put screen filters in the downspout an d in the gutter. i plug the sump pump in and the water comes out of the shower head nicely . however , shouldnt i have some kind of filter or chemical in the rainbarrel as it is beginning to smell after a month or so i noticed as the shower runs. the rainbarrel is covered but doesnt water get stagnant in the rain barrel . i only go there on weekneds for the summer and the water is sitting in the rainbarrel for a long period . what kind of filter or additive should i add to my rain barrel or what kind of filter should i use so that the water that i shower with doesnt smell or harm me. thankyou.

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lars June 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm

@Laura

The EPA recommends using bleach to treat water for drinking, so I’m sure it would be safe for showering. I don’t think you’d need to treat it to drinking water levels, so it probably wouldn’t require as much bleach.
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/emerg.html

I also found this interesting link, but I can’t vouch for accuracy.
http://www.survivaltopics.com/survival/better-than-bleach-use-calcium-hypochlorite-to-disinfect-water/

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Heather January 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm

@Laura
There’s a large chance you won’t reply to this because it’s been 2 years since you posted this comment, but I am very interested in the system you designed for your shower. I’m a student in high school and we’re doing a rain catcher project in physics, and I thought it would be cool to make a shower with one; that’s when I came across your comment. If you happen to read this within the next week and a half, could you e-mail me telling me how you designed your shower with the sump pump?
Thanks!

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John July 30, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I want to use my rain barrel to water my lawn. What is best to increase the pressuse so I can use the water through my sprinkler? A pump of some kind? Does anyone have any experience with this?

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steve August 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm

@John,

The best way to increase water pressure is to raise the height of the barrel, however to water a lawn with a sprinkler you will not be able to raise it high enough. You can use a water pump like this one, (http://www.cleanairgardening.com/electric-water-pump.html) however unless you have a rather large rain barrel or multiple barrels linked together I doubt you will have enough water. The best use of a rain barrel is to water flowers and shrubs around the house.

I hope this info helps.

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Mary Gilligan September 2, 2010 at 6:05 am

I want to replace my well water during spring, summer, fall with rainwater how can make this connection to my plumbing…. we got 35 yrs of BAD well never drink the stuff ; sic of salt bags expense and work of….winter we get plenty of snow too.

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steve September 14, 2010 at 5:13 pm

@Mary Gilligan,
If I understand your question, you want to direct your rain water directly into your plumbing. Please keep in mind rain water may not be the best water to drink, since it comes off your roof it would like be contaminated, by dirt, bird droppings, etc.
If you were to clean it you still have the problem of building up the necessary pressure to supply your house with water. I imagine you would need at least 20 psi.
I suggest you contact a local plumber and see if they can help with what you have in mind.

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Connie September 26, 2010 at 2:02 am

There are tiny little creatures in my rain barrel that resemble tadpoles. What are they? I don’t have a screen over my barrel.

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steve September 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

@Connie, The tiny creatures are likely mosquito larva. I suggest a screen and some mosquito dunks.
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/mosquito1.html

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anita September 26, 2010 at 7:23 pm

What do you know about the toxicity of the roofing materials (I have a composition roof) in the water that has come off the roof to the rain barrels? Also, do plastic rain barrels off gas?

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steve September 27, 2010 at 4:01 pm

@anita,

I imagine your rain water is already draining onto your grass and flower beds, so redirecting it to a rain barrel will just allow you to direct it to a specific area. As long as you are not drinking it it will not harm your lawn, garden, etc.

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Lois Lombard October 22, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Do I have to drain my rain barrel before it freezes? Will freezing and winter harm my “plastic” rainbarrel?

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steve October 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm

@Lois Lombard, Leave the spigot open so the water does not collect during a freeze will keep it from being damaged.

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John October 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm

It’s day 2 of rainy season and my barrel is already full… with about 8 months to go. Given that it’s rained for 2 days straight, I don’t need the water for my yard. Any advice? Can I get multiple barrels and stockpile over the (Seattle) winter?

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Barbara October 14, 2012 at 7:10 am

John–I see it has been a couple of years since you posted this question… and there are no replies to it. Did you find a solution? I’m in Bellingham and am seriously considering a rain barrel. I’m worried about this issue though. It rains so much during some seasons and then very little.

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steve October 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm

@Barbara, Johns question about stock piling collected water and linking multiple barrels together is answered as follows. Yes, you can store as much water as you have the ability to hold. We do recommend adding a small amount of bleach in the water to keep algae from growing, usually 1 table spoon per ten gallons is sufficient and will not hurt the water or the plants. Also, linking multiple rain barrels to one another is common and works well. Once one is full the over flow hose linked to the other barrel will allow the water to transfer to the other rain barrels.

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Jay Bell November 17, 2010 at 12:45 am

How do the barrels work in the winter with freezing? The area gets about 6 inches of rain a year, but about always some snow.

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steve November 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm

@Jay Bell, If you are in an area that which freezes you should either divert your downspout so the rain barrel does not receive the water, or leave the valve open so the water drains out. If you do not take one of these steps you risk having your barrel bust or crack do to the expansion of water when it freezes.

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Angela November 30, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Hi! I have read your instructions on winterizing our rain barrel and plan on doing it soon. My question is if I drain the water from our rain barrel into a separate sealed food grade plastic container and keep it in the garage will it still be ok to be used next season? We were concerned of something possibly making the water “rancid” or un-safe to use if kept over the winter. Thanks in advance for any help!

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steve December 3, 2010 at 3:36 pm

@Angela, Yes, you can store the water. You can add a tablespoon of bleach so it does not mold or mildew. The EPA recommends using bleach to treat water. http://www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/emerg.html
I also found this interesting link, but I can’t vouch for accuracy.
http://www.survivaltopics.com/survival/better-than-bleach-use-calcium-hypochlorite-to-disinfect-water/

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Draqe Greer December 7, 2010 at 1:05 am

Is a rain barrel beneficial to someone who gets their water from a well? Would taking the rain away from the ground cause your well to not get as much water and maybe even dry it up?

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steve December 10, 2010 at 4:42 pm

@Draqe Greer, Assuming you not going to collect all the water that falls from your roof top you should be fine, and even if you did it is very unlikely you would ever notice it. Your ground water is likely feed by several sources.

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Tracy December 7, 2010 at 2:57 am

Hi there – great resource. How high should the rain barrel be mounted in order to have enough pressure to water our vegetable gardens via a hose or soak-hoses? Thanks!

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steve December 10, 2010 at 4:40 pm

@Tracy, It really depends on the distance and diameter of the hose. Typically you want to get it has high as you can without compromising safety. If you can get it at least 2 feet off the ground, it should work, any higher you will need to make sure the rain barrel is secure.

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Elizabeth January 9, 2011 at 4:54 am

Just added a new deck with a roof overhang. Is it safe to put a rain barrel on a deck attached to my house or due to the weight, must it be on the ground level? Is their a size limit if I put it on the deck? If I put it on the ground, can I still attach a hose and have enough pressure to water the planters on my deck which is about 3 foot off the ground. Thanks.

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steve January 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm

@Elizabeth,
Placing a rain barrel on your deck is possible, but it really depends on the size of the barrel and the strength of your deck. I suggest you talk to the builders of the deck and see if the area you plan to place the barrel is suitable to hold a rain barrel. Let them know the size and appox weight. Keep in mind a gallon of water weighs approx 8.4 lbs so a 50 gallon rain barrel would weigh roughly 420 lbs plus the weight of the rain barrel. It is possible if the builders do not think it will hold the weight, they can reinforce the area.
Regarding the hose question, I doubt you would have enough pressure to water the plants. You would need to fill a watering can.

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Donna February 8, 2011 at 6:13 am

My husband is just building a new house and the client wants the best of everything. The house is large, and would a water barrell system would work vey well. However he is not sure whether treated cedar shingles will effect the water. Not knowing exactly what the client wants to use the water for; organic gardening etc. Do treated shingles have a big impact on the water in the barrells??
thx D

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steve February 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm

@Donna, The water from your roof with traditional shingles or cedar will be fine for the plants. Keep in mind, the water is going to drain off your roof whether you collect it or not. As long as it is being used to water plants and not as drinking water you will be fine.

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diane February 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Our two rain barrels are over flowing like mad given the rain we are having here in the N.W. Both barrels are in the back yard and close to the house. Could we have foundation damage over time with the run off from the barrels so close to the house? If so how does one go about draining them during our wet months. Should we stop collecting water during heavy rains? The idea of storing five gallon pails in the yard to save water for spring and summer is not all that inviting.
Thanks much. djm

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steve February 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm

@diane, Yes, it could begin to cause problems. I suggest you use a diverter like the Garden Watersaver. This device will divert the water back down your downspout when the barrel is full.
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/gawadoat.html

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John February 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I already have a micro-irrigation system in place in my garden, which covers about 100 sq feet. I intend to just use the polytubing and not the microtubes or drippers to water my garden with a rain barrel. Do you think this set up would be appropriate for rain barrel use.

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steve February 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm

@John, Yes, it will likely work assuming the tips are for drip irrigation and low pressure. You may need to elevate the rain barrel to increase the water pressure.

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JoAnn February 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Help! My rain barrel is full, yet will not drain. It worked fine up until the water levels reached 3/4 full and up. It does have two hose connecters up near the top to allow air in….I purchased it locally at our Whole Foods last year.
Richmond, VA

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steve March 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

@Joann, I image its plugged, try disconnecting the hose and see if there is a screen. It may be clogged.

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Lily February 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm

What studies have been done on rainwater collected from an asphalt roof as well as being used in a vegetable garden. If you can direct me to these studies, that would be great!!

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steve March 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

@Lily, I found this study, see the third page with the paragraph titled asphalt. They have come to the same conclusion I have, that it is safe on your plants.
http://www.ose.state.nm.us/water-info/conservation/pdf-manuals/Roof-Reliant-Landscaping/RRL-Chapter-7.pdf

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Owen Dell March 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Hello,

I have a 7,500 square foot lot, and I use about 195,000 gallons of water per year for landscape irrigation. A single 63-gallon rain barrel will supply 0.00032227 percent of my annual water needs, making it necessary for me to have 3,103 barrels to meet those needs. They will take up over a quarter acre of land if placed side-by-side. My lot is only about .17 acres, and the house and garden take it all up. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you.

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lars March 5, 2011 at 10:46 pm

@Owen

That’s a different scale of rainwater harvesting, and you should consider something like a cistern or above ground tank instead:
http://www.texasrainwatertanks.com/

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Mike May 14, 2011 at 3:22 am

According to my calculations you are watering an average of 8.4 inches per week; I would guess either you are over watering or trying to grow something not appropriate for your climate.
Are you growing cattails in the dessert? 🙂

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Peter October 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Mike – I’m chiming in a little late on this thread, but my calculations differ. 195,000 gallons is 26,068 cubic feet. 0.17 acres is 7,405 square feet, so I’ll take the stated 7,500 square feet. Thus, 26,068 cu.ft. / 7,500 sq.ft. = 3.52 feet per year = 0.8 inches per week. I don’t have any background in the subject but I just looked it up and an “Evapotranspiration Rate” (which dictates your irrigation requirements) of 0.8″ per week seems pretty reasonable. I’m not sure how you came to 8.4 inches per week.

Owen – The real issue is, if you don’t have enough rainfall to irrigate the land, and you can’t get water from outside that area of land, then you’ll never have enough water. What the storage will do is store the excess from the rainy days (season) and allow you to use if for irrigation in the dryer periods.

In this case, if the average yearly rainfall is less than 0.8 inches per day the irrigation water will have to be supplemented. Of course, that would assum you can collect all excess water from the full land area. What do you really need to look at (I’ll assume you can only reasonably collect water from your roof)?
1. Look at the average yearly rainfall to find out how many gallons can be collected from the roof and that will tell you if you can manage the irrigation.
2. Note that you only need enough storage to see you through the dry period until the next rainy season (with a safety margin.)
3. Whatever you’re lacking in rainfall will need to be made up with a well, municipal water or other source.

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Glenn H November 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I know you’re being smart, but actually your math is wrong. A 63 gallon barrel will give you more than 63 gallons per year meaning you won’t need 3,103 barrels for your ANNUAL water consumption.

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Ally B June 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Hello, the organization I’m working for is currently looking into buying two Waterwall tanks, which hold around 650 gallons.

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steve June 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Ally B, That’s great and just so you know there are other rain barrel wall options, here are a few: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/modular-rain-barrel.html and http://www.cleanairgardening.com/rain-water-storage.html

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Dill Weed March 13, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Owen, You wouldn’t be using 195,000 gallons (seems like a lot, consider drought tolerant plantings next time!) of water all at once. Recalculate.

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Ashley April 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Hi,
I’m looking to add some rain barrels to our yard to help with our water bill and be more environmentally conscience. What is the best type of rain barrel? Do you have any specific ones you might recommend? What other pieces of equipment might I need and what other considerations do I need to be wary of? I am looking at collapsible ones and wondered if they work as well as wooden or other material ones.

Thanks so much!
Ashley

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steve April 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm

@Ashley, The start with a sealed barrel, this way small children and animals cannot fall in and drown. Here is a link to some suggestions: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/rain-barrel-buyers-guide.html
You may need a pump to add to the water pressure. Keep in mind the collapsible ones are convenient and less expensive however, in some circumstances safety and durability can be an issue.

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Dan Molina April 4, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Is rain water collected in plastic 32 gal trash cans (Rubbermaid) suitable for watering a vegetable garden or do I have to worry about plastic toxic chemicals leaching out into the water. Some of the water has been stored for about a year or two.

Thanks,

Dan

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steve April 5, 2011 at 12:43 pm

@Dan Molina, It’s possible the water has algae in it now. You may want to dump it and start again. I doubt it will cause you any problems. One thing to consider, water in an open barrel can be a hazard to small children or pets. If you have not already, you need to cover the cans with a lid so someone or something cannot fall in it and drown.

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Scott April 7, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I recently bought 3 barrels that used to hold “step sept” a cleaning material for cow and horse hoofs. They are rated “grade 2.” Are they okay to use as rain barrels to water our garden?

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steve April 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm

@Scott, I believe grade 2 indicates the type of plastic used. While they would work well for holding rain water not knowing what is in the cleaning agent I would error on the side of caution. If it’s non-toxic then it should be fine. Try contacting the manufacturer.

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Noelle April 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I’m attempting to water my 12′ by 5′ raised garden bed with two rain barrels on the downspout closest to it. The garden bed is divided into three strips (the 12′ length) so I need to water each section. Would it be better to make one soaker hose that snakes back and forth across the bed, or three separate hoses, one for each section that can be turned on individually?

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steve April 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm

@Noelle, Your best option is one soaker hose. Setting up three has a great chance of not having enough water pressure.

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Anthony April 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Is a clear car wash soap container (30 gallon) safe to use as a rain barrel to water my vegetable plants? If not, are there any other low cost alternatives?

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steve April 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm

@Anthony, Clean the container with a mild solution of water and vinegar. Make sure to thoroughly wash out the vinegar. Also, if it’s an open container be sure to secure a top so small animals and children cannot fall in and drown.

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Doug July 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Vinegar is enough to neutralize the chemical? I’m seeing things like Glycol Ether, monobutyl , Quaternary Surfactant &Hydrotreated Middle Distillate on the label…

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steve July 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm

@Doug, I doubt very highly that vinegar will neutralize those chemical and honestly it’s not worth the chance it someone says it will. Take the barrel to a recycling center and find a food grade barrel.

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Denise April 27, 2011 at 12:49 am

I am buying 2 or 3 rainbarrels, and wanted to know how best to place them: one at each downspout; or stacked next to each other, one downspout diverted into one barrel, then when that one gets full, feeds into the next barrel, into the next barrel, etc.

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lars May 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm

@Denise

It’s mostly personal preference. It depends on if you want the water closer to where you’re going to use it, or if it looks better in a hidden away spot, or if you mind or don’t mind getting the water from multiple places.

If there’s a barrel attached separately to each downspout, they’ll probably fill up the fastest with the least amount of rain.

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Lezlie April 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I just got my first rain barrel, it came from a water treament plant. I read on DIY that rain barrels should be food safe, how do I know that my new barrel is food safe?

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lars May 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm

@Lezlie

Food grade usually means that it was actually used to store food or food ingredients. I think you would be better off asking the people at the water treatment plant if it’s safe, because they will be knowledgeable about what is or isn’t safe with water issues. If they gave them out to be used as rain barrels, then I would imagine that they knew of all the issues about that. But better to make a quick phone call and find out for sure than risk it!

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kathy donovan April 29, 2011 at 12:59 am

Can you advise me on using a 55 gallon barrel that had contained detergent (sodium hydroxide & sodium hypochlorite) for use on a dairy farm as a rain barrel?
Thank you

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lars May 1, 2011 at 8:53 pm

@kathy

My own rule is that if I don’t understand what was in the barrel, then I won’t use it. I’m unfortunately not familiar with that, so I wouldn’t use it for myself. Sure, it could be just basic detergent and no big deal. But then again, it might not be. I don’t know enough to say.

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mark May 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Sodium hydroxide = lye. Dangerous (caustic) when concentrated but not in small concentrations. Lye is used to make soap and bagels.
Sodium hypochlorite = unscented chlorine bleach. Commonly used to disinfect water.
Sodium hydroxide/sodium hypochlorite solutions are used to clean tannin deposits in brewerys and apparently for other tasks as well. Those are the only two listed hazardous ingredients on at least one industrial dishwasher detergent.

If those were really the only chemicals present, I would consider it a possible candidate for potable water storage. But those may be the only ones hazardous enough to be listed on MSDS. There may be fragrances, surfactants,sequestrants, impurities, etc. Looks like this was probably used too clean fat and protein deposits from the inside of dairy tanks so human ingestion of some residual was anticipated. Remembe, the poison is in the dose. Drinking this stuff in its original concentration would be very dangerous but sufficiently dilluted should be ok. Too much soap or detergent residue can also have a laxitive effect but dishes that have been washed in soap/detergent and properly rinsed are ok. Detergents meant for cleaning food contact surfaces are less risky than ones intended to clean laundry, flloors, ./or cars, or as a parts degreaser. For potable water, I would rinse well, then store water in it for a few days and discard to let chemicals leach out of plastic. repeat. smell. Use shorter rotation intervals initially.

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Joyce May 1, 2011 at 8:38 pm

The prices of rain barrels such as those found at Home Depot are quite high considering the material is just recycled plastic and comes with a plastic spigot. Is it feasible to purchase a large trash can and install a copper spigot? If so, what would be the best way to keep the spigot sealed? I will be using for my vegetable garden mostly. I suppose it would be best to screen the top and purchase a diverter kit or could I improvise?

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lars May 1, 2011 at 8:50 pm

@Joyce

You absolutely need to make sure that the top of the barrel is covered adequately if you are going to make your own rain barrel. An animal or even a person can easily drown in an open barrel. Your center of gravity makes it almost impossible to get back out of the barrel if you lean over and fall in. It sounds ridiculous, but I read about a woman who died trying to rescue her cat.

Here is a good post that links to several high quality sites with instructions on building your own barrel, which should answer your other questions.
http://www.rainbarreltips.com/make-your-own-rain-barrel-ultimate-guide/

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Christine May 2, 2011 at 6:09 pm

The downspouts of my gutters currently connect to a drainage system that carries the water away from my house. I’d like to capture some of that water with a rain barrel. Is there a way I can collect some of the water in the barrel and divert the rest (overflow from the barrel) into the already existing drainage pipes? The pipes run underground to disperse the water far away from my foundation.

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lars May 5, 2011 at 9:30 pm

@Christine

A product like this might work for you.
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/gawadoat.html

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Tom Gaskill May 2, 2011 at 11:43 pm

I have three rain barrels 3/4 full in service for the past three months. The barrels are white and in the sun light 1/2 of the day. Now the water is turning green. What should i do add bleach? or something else?

Thanks

Tom

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lars May 5, 2011 at 9:29 pm

@Tom

Bleach will help with this problem.
I recommend just a few tablespoons full of bleach at a time. This link should help!
http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/faq/emerg.html

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Rasa May 9, 2011 at 5:19 am

hi I was wondering if it is possible to have a stand alone rain barrel?my garden is far from my house and i would like to collect the water near the garden. can i just collect rain water from the sky? or does it have to be connected to a down spout off the house?

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steve May 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

@Rasa, Yes, you can however it will take much longer to collect any significant amount of water unless you have a huge downpour, and even then it will be much less than when collecting it from a roof top.

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Dan May 9, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Hi!,
The water in my rain barrel stinks like sulpher, and I have read that this is a result of the breakdown of organics….I am not worried that it is unhealthy, but would like to stop the stink (without chemicals).
Someone mentioned putting goldfish and plants in it to keep the mosquito larvae in check and oxygenate the water. Do you have any experience with this? -Thanks!

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steve May 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm

@Dan, Those suggestions mentioned may work, you may also want to treat it with a very small amount of bleach. The EPA has done some research on the subject. Just a few tablespoons full of bleach at a time may do the trick.
http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/faq/emerg.html

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Ryan May 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I have access to a number of barrels that actually used to contain Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach). I understand that typically barrels that once contained chemicals should not be used for rain collection, but given that bleach often seems to be the recommended treatment for potable water, stagnant water, etc., do you think these could be suitable for use as rain barrels if they have been completely emptied of the Sodium Hypochlorite and rinsed a few times?
I also have access to barrels that contained a soap used in a food production factory to wipe down the assembly lines and countertops. Would this be a better/worse type of barrel to use?

-Thanks!

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steve May 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm

@Ryan, You may want to consider cleaning both barrel types out thoroughly, add some rain water, then have that water tested. Typically you would not want to use either type of barrel however if you clean them and have the rain water tested you may be ok.

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Andy June 4, 2011 at 6:16 pm

How much area can a 55 gallon rain barrel serve/water? I am looking for some calculation for area coverage and cannot find any. I have three downspouts in an area that covers just under 500 sf of garden space. Your previous comments have been very helpful. Thanks for your help.

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steve June 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm

@Andy, There are a number of variables which make calculating this difficult, such as the type of plants, the time of year, the average temperature, if you mulch around the plants, etc. I use rain water for my garden and simply subsidize water from my hose spigot when it runs out.

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Andy June 9, 2011 at 1:59 am

Steve, thanks for the response…on that side of the house I have three downspouts. I am figuring that I will start with one and add another as needed.

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PPautz June 4, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I have “stinky” water in my rain barrel. It seems adding a few tablespoons of bleach will help, but it won’t harm my plants will it? I only use the water for my flowers.

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steve June 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm

@PPautz, You are correct it will not harm your plants, as a matter of fact, bleech is used to purify drinking water. http://safewater.supportportal.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=23015

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Mary June 12, 2011 at 1:03 am

As a filter / screen, can I use cheesecloth?
Thanks for your help

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steve June 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm

@Mary, Yes, you can, however you will need to check it regularly so it does not get filled with debris and stop the flow of water. Also, you may want to put a plastic screen as a pre-screen to keep twigs and other sharp items from puncturing the cheesecloth.

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David June 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I have a rain barrel and an extra barrel for storage. I want to link them up, but I’m not sure why all the barrels I see linked are linked up high on the barrels, shouldn’t they be linked low? If they are linked high than the extra barrel only gets water when the first is overflowing.

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steve June 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm

@David, The main rain barrel should be equal or higher than the extra barrel receiving the water, i.e. the storage barrel. I suggest making the storage barrel slightly lower.

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Buck Eskew April 25, 2012 at 5:50 am

Hey David…you are correct in that if the pipes are connected high, then the 2nd barrel will only get the overflow from the 1st barrel.

I built a system that has four 55-gallon barrels and uses a manifold system that’s connected low and will let all 4 barrels level the water out themselves. I also installed overflows, as the main barrel will tend to fill faster since it will have to create pressure to push the water into the other barrels.

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MaryAlbrecht June 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

how do I keep mosquitoes from laying eggs in my rain buckets/

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steve June 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm

@MaryAlbrecht, First you should have a screen over the open area, this will help keep mosquito’s out. You can buy the material at most hardware stores, it’s the same screen used on a screen door. Also, add a few Mosquito Control Dunks to your rain barrel, this is a non toxic way to kill the larva. http://www.cleanairgardening.com/mosquito1.html

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Mel June 23, 2011 at 12:58 am

Hi! Can you tell me what kind of paint to use to paint on the plastic rain barrel? Thanks!

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steve June 28, 2011 at 2:10 pm

@Mel, Your local hardware store will have paints that will adhere to plastic, likely something like Krylon® Fusion for Plastic. I think it comes in a can or spray bottle.

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Nancy O June 23, 2011 at 2:41 am

My rain barrel contains about 500 to 800 tadpoles. We keep a tight lid on the barrel, so how did they get in there? What can I do to keep them growing to adulthood?

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steve June 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Nancy O, Somehow a frog must have gotten in your rain barrel. Are you sure they are tadpoles? If they are extremely tiny they could be mosquito larva, but if they are tadpoles you may want to fish them out with a net and take them to a local lake or pond.

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lynne June 23, 2011 at 3:24 am

is there a rebate program for vernon b.c for the purchase of a rain barrel????

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steve June 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm

@Lynne, Not that we are aware of, however contact your local water department or city water agency and they can put you in contact with the proper department.

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Mike l June 24, 2011 at 9:56 am

I am building a new home and want to collect rain water off my roof but do not want ugly barrels near my house. Are there any alternatives? I am also considering bearing abhuge collection barrel in back yard somewhere but need to know how to get the water out

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steve June 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm

@Mike l, There are several more attractive rain barrels, such as a wine or whiskey barrel that is used to collect rain water. There are also plastic barrels molded to look like large urns. http://www.cleanairgardening.com/agua-rain-barrel.html

As for getting your rain water out, if not gravity feed then you would need a pump. There are both battery, manual and even solar powered pumps: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/solar-powered-rain-barrel-pump.html

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Jan June 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm

From what I’ve read, regardless of the material used in a plastic rain barrel, i.e. ‘food grade’, or the like; one still shouldn’t use the water for a vegetable garden if the source is from an asphalt shingled roof, or other type where contaminants from the source are as much of a concern as the plastic material in the rain barrel. Is that correct? Also, what type of plastic should one look for in an eco-friendly, UV protective, non-leaching barrel?

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steve June 29, 2011 at 11:43 am

@Jan, Maybe you just spend $10,000 on bottled water for your plants. No, wait! Bottled water is dangerous too because the bottles are made of plastic! What kind of plastic? And oh no! Maybe you should tear out your lawn, because all of that dangerous shingle water is going into your yard right now! And don’t eat at restaurants anymore, because they might be using food from food grade barrels and you don’t know what type of plastic it is.

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silkster July 28, 2012 at 7:48 pm

@steve, that’s not very helpful! @Jan’s question is valid especially for this web site. The answer is yes, it’s ok to use the water runoff from a roof.
http://www.rainbarrelguide.com/rain-barrel-tips-using-rainwater-from-the-roof/

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steve July 31, 2012 at 7:01 pm

@silkster, SARCASIM?

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barry June 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Dear Madam or Sir: I want to place my rain barrel at my garden site in the yard. I would like to elevate the barrel so the garden could be watered by gravity-feed. Since I barrel will not be underneath a downspout from the house, I would like to enhance the amount of surface area for collecting rainwater for the barrel. Any recommendations for some type of enlarged collar or other attachment for collecting more rainwater in the barrel? Thanks. Barry

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steve July 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

@barry, The best funnel or collar you have is your house, so unless you live in an area that gets a regular and large amount of rain you will not get much water by just placing the barrel out in the open and without the use of the roof for your water source.

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Kathryn July 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I would like to buy a rain chain and barrel, but I do not have a gutter system on my house. On the front of the house I have an area where when it rains it washes out my garden which I think would be the perfect spot for the rain chain and barrel to collect water for the garden. I would like an attractive rain barrel since it’s in the fron of the house and my house is mid-century modern style. Any help on where to find more modern looking collection systems that will work without the use of a gutter would be great. Thank you in advance.

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steve July 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm

@Kathryn, The modern part is the gutter without it you’re going to have a hard time catching the water. Start with some gutters – then do a search for rain barrels online and you will have plenty to choose from.

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Donna Wright July 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm

We are putting two rain barrels out and want to know what we should use to strap them down to keep them from blowing off when it is not raining and they are low on water. What do you recommend? We plan on painting them to match our house, and don’t want the straps (or whatever is recommended) to really stand out.

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steve July 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm

@Donna Wright, If your barrels are not sealed you could drop a few rocks or brick in the barrel to hold them down. As for a strap that is not easily seen, that’s a tough one not knowing which barrel you have. I suggest adding the rocks to the bottom, if it’s a sealed barrel just use a bunch of smaller rocks to give you the weight necessary to keep it from blowing away.

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Dave July 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm

why aren’t the hose bibs lower on barrel
to use all of the water in barrel ?

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steve July 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm

@Dave, Some are placed lower towards the bottom while other place them 1/3 from the bottom. The ones place at 1/3 from the bottom allow a water can to be place under while the ones with hose bibs near or at the bottom require the barrel to be placed on a stand to allow the hose bib to be accessed. Not all are mid way as show at this link: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/33galrainbar.html

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julia July 19, 2011 at 8:01 pm

hi there, i am just curious about who started & runs this site, as during my browsing for good rain barrel information, i’ve found that i really love this site. it has a nice layout, the information is delivered in a fashion that is clear for a novice like myself with interest, and the answers & information given on the message boards are helpful. good job!

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steve July 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm

@julia, Thanks for your comments, it was started by a guy who wants to help individuals learn more about rain barrels. Glad you found the information useful.

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Patricia Kimble July 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm

We have a spot in the front of our old queen anne victorian home (120 yrs old) where the water pours down from the gable over the front porch. Is there a rain barrel I can get that looks nice and could catch water pouring from 12 feet up down to the ground? Or could we use something attractive like a rain chain to focus the water down into the barrel?

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steve August 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm

@Patricia Kimble, Yes there are more attractive looking rain barrels and yes, you can use a rain chain, but keep in mind even with a rain chain and barrel, without the use of a downspout the water is still going to splash a lot when it hits the ground or top of the barrel. FYI, do not use a open barrel, you risk a small child or animal drowning if they fall inside.

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jerry sobona July 31, 2011 at 8:25 pm

what do u add to rain water to kill the mosquitos

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steve August 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm

@jerry sobona, Add these mosquito dunks to your rain barrel water, http://www.cleanairgardening.com/mosquito1.html
They are non toxic and will kill the larva therefore your mosquito problem will go away.

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Sidney Thompson August 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Can I cover my clear 350 gallon rain barrel with shade cloth or some other dark cloth to prevent algae? It would be difficult to move it to be able to paint it a dark color.

Wonderful site -so helpful. Thanks.
Sidney

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steve August 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Sidney, Stopping the algae is going to be tough, the shade cloth will help, you may also consider addind something like this: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/pond-conditioner.html It will not harm the water.

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nanci August 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Just had a new roof put on my house. Could the water collected off the new roof be harmful to the fish in my watergarden if I used it to top it off? Sometimes after a lot of rain I don’t need it for the plants but could still fill the pond a little… Thanks!

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steve August 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm

@Nanci, Wait a few months then once the roof has had a chance to wash off a few times you should be fine to let it drain into your pond.

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Kelly August 9, 2011 at 9:09 am

Hi,, I have a couple of problems with one of my barrels. First I can’t seem to put a spout on, as in I have drilled a 1″ hole but for the life of me cannot get the spout (metal or plastic screwed into the barrel-any suggestions? Barrel is full up-to the hole. Secondly same barrel and although I had a covered it with a larger mesh basket somehow a squirrel found it’s way in and the poor thing drown. Without knowing this sad fact it rotted and decomposed within the barrel so, my question is what do I do with the contaminated water? I have already removed the remains, but do I just add bleach? or where do I pour the black/green sludge? Thanks in advance for ANY help you can give me,
Kelly

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steve August 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm

@Kelly, You need a threaded spigot with a nut to hold it on. Put the spigot threaded part though the hole and reach in from the inside and attach the nut. As for the contaminated water, yes a little bleach should do the trick but honestly since you’re not drinking it, the water will not hurt your plants. If your rain barrel is full of sludge, you should empty, clean it and set it back up. Add a small amount of bleach every once in a while to help slow down the growth.

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Angela August 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I have a rain barrel out back and sometimes overnight it is empty, like a horse got in our fenced in, urban backyard and drank it all.

What could be drinking all the water?

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steve August 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Angela, Zombies are most thirsty at night so that would be my best guess! Or it could have a hole/crack in the bottom.

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Angela August 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Hahahaha! We were discussing this at my job and our best conclusion was winged unicorns. Zombies is much better provided they don’t leave foot prints, as the “culprit” leaves no trace… no prints, no feathers, no fur, no dirt. The hole/crack idea was brought up too, however most of the time the barrel holds water fine and the level does not change from day to day. The following conclusion was thus formed, that at a certain level the crack has too much pressure and opens to let water out. Testing this theory currently because I cannot find any cracks.
Thanks for feedback Steve! 🙂

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karl August 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm

live in maryland, lots of cold and freezing weather , what should i do to protect { winterize } my rain barrel during winter ?

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steve August 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm

@Karl, To winterize your barrel simply make it so no water is in the rain barrel. You can open the spigot, or divert the downspout so it is not filling the barrel. Or you can flip your rain barrel over so no water can get in it.

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Jon August 17, 2011 at 5:37 am

We just purchased a rain barrel and it worked perfectly the first time through (attached a garden hose to the provided hose and drained it into the yard). We closed it and came back later, redirecting the hose to another place in the yard and no water came out (yes – we did open the valve back up). I unattached the garden hose to see if any water would come out and no water came out. What could have happened in between the two times to cause it to stop working? This is our first time using it – doesn’t seem like there’s been time for any debris to build up, etc. Please advise.

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steve August 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm

@Jon, Sounds like the hose is clogged, blow it out and see what happens.

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Leslie August 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I have been using a rainbarrel for months now with no problems. Yesterday, a filter was added and now the pump comes on every two minutes. Any ideas why this is happening?

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steve August 22, 2011 at 6:49 pm

@Leslie,

Nope, but try taking off the filter and see if it still comes on every two minutes to see if its related. Maybe when installing the filter you did something to the pump.

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bonnie September 2, 2011 at 1:53 am

My husband installed a rain barrel and the first time it rained, it filled up and then went down the downspout like it was suppose to, since then, it fills up and then runs over, not going down the downspout, we installed the diverter kit that came with it, and husband lost directions since then, why is it overflowing???

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steve September 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm

@bonnie, There is a change the back flow tube is clogged, however no knowing which diverter you have its hard to speculate. Try cleaning it out and checking the connections.

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Jane September 4, 2011 at 12:20 am

I have a hose on a reel and I connected that to the rain barrel spigot. I can’t seem to get the water to come out, go through the hose wound around the reel, and out the hose nozzel so I can water plants. Any suggestions?

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steve September 6, 2011 at 2:10 pm

@Jane, Yea, get rid of the hose reel.

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Enis September 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm

What is the advantage of the black coat of paint inside a rain barrel?

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steve September 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm

@Enis, Toxins, that’s the biggest one I can think of!
Oh, and I guess it might block the light to slow the growth of algae, but painting the outside of the barrel would do the same thing.

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alan wilson September 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm

hi i have just brought a barrel that as had sodium hydroxide solution in it how do i clean it out to make it safe for water to run in a koi pound

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steve September 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm

@alan wilson, Sorry but I cannot recommend using this container or how it should be cleaned. I suggest it be properly recycled and a barrel that was used in the food industry found or purchased. This way you can be sure there were no toxic chemical used in it.

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David September 24, 2011 at 9:08 am

I’m wondering if it’s possible to connect my rain barrel to a downstairs toilet, so when my power goes out and my well pump doesn’t operate, I could still have water to flush the toilet. There’s an elevation difference of about 6 feet from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the toilet tank. Any ideas?

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steve September 26, 2011 at 5:18 pm

@David, Yes, that’s possible, just a matter of running the supply line from the rain barrel to the toilet tank and making an adapter to get the water into the tank.

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Patricia Alber September 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I know the algae in my rain barrel water is okay for watering my flower garden, but can I use it for water in my birdbaths? Also is there anything I can add to the barrel to keep the algae from forming? And lastly do I have to store my rain barrels inside for the winter? I know I have to drain them but can I store them outside in an unheated shed. I live in New York and the winters here can be harsh.

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steve September 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm

@Patricia Alber, Yes, you can use the water from your rain barrel to supply water to your birdbath, and no it will not harm the birds. To help with the algae in the rain barrels you can add a few spoon full of bleach, this is approved by the FDA and will not harm the water. If you live in a cold area with snow or freezing weather you should flip the rain barrel over, open the spigot, or take the barrels indoors. If a rain barrel has water in it when a hard freeze comes it will damage the rain barrel.

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Bob September 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I have a rural home with its own well. The water is great, and according to folks who have lived in this area for 50 years or more, the supply is constant. Everything that comes from my downspouts soaks into the ground. There is no pavement anywhere near the downspouts. I question whether or not rain barrels in my case would actually make any contribution to the environment.

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steve September 30, 2011 at 3:08 pm

@Bob, Sounds like the ideal situation. If you were to harvest the rain water you would likely just be putting it back out in a more concentrated area like a garden. So it would not hurt, just allow you to concentrate the water to a specific area and cut down on the use of the well pump because you are using the rain barrel water.

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Sue September 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm

I was thinking of installing an underground tank to collect rain water. However the price is rather high. Are there other benefits that an underground tank would provide that a rain barrel wouldn’t, other than the amount of rain collected? Four rain barrels could collect about the fifth of the tank the landscape architect was recommending. But price would be substantially lower. I would love a compare contrast between the two.

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steve October 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm

@Sue, The biggest benefit would be the unit being out of site, the biggest negative other than the cost is approval (permits) and safety, seeing that you are digging a huge hole near your house. You have the most flexibility with individual above ground rain barrels.

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Joe S October 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm

I have been a rain barrel user for years. We leave the valve on our Rain barrel open about 1/4 of the way all the time with a soaker hose attached to disperse the water into our garden as well as minimize barrel overflow.
I was wondering if you had any statistics on Rain Barrel usage in the United States or growth of the industry? My wife and I have noticed rain barrels popping up in all sorts of places we’d never seen them before.

Love the site!
joe

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steve October 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm

@Joe S, Yes, we keep those statistics however that is top secret information and you do not appear to have the clearance.

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Joe S October 28, 2011 at 2:26 am

Really? Top Secret? That’s unfortunate. I would expect that type of information people would be excited to share. How does one get clearance? I’m working on a project about water usage and was trying to quantify the industry growth but I am unable to find any statistics thus far.
Thanks anyway.

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steve October 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm

@Joe S, Yes, Top Secret! We do not joke about water conservation around here. As for getting clearance you would have to talk to the commander and chief, or pay $300.00. We take all major credit cards.

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Joe S March 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Steve,
I apologize for being so long to get back to you, apparently the email notification has been sitting in my spam filter for months. Could I get some contact info for your Commander in Chief? I would certainly be interested in talking to someone, and even paying for the information you’ve collected.

Thanks!
joe

southern patriot October 27, 2011 at 3:09 am

OK I have 55-gllon drums that use to have detergent and bleach in them. They have been washed out with dawn and then soaked with baking soda and rinsed inside and out many many time. I have put a pitcher pump to deliver the water. Question, can this water now be used to drink? also what is the length of time that water will stay fresh before you need to boil it to make it safe to drink. Thanks for your help

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steve October 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm

@southern patriot, Not knowing what the source of the water is, I would have to assume its from your roof. If this is the case then I would have to say no. Birds crap on the roof, not to mention the content of the roofing material, its fairly toxic.

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Amanda October 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm

If I wanted to continue using the rain barrel system that I created over the winter, how could I best keep the pipes between the barrels from freezing? Is there any way to keep the water moving, without electricity, that would keep the water from freezing and the pipes from breaking?

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steve October 31, 2011 at 1:17 pm

@Amanda, No!

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Susan G October 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I have a a penthouse condo with a lovely 400 sq ft deck but no down spouts! Are there any rain barrel options for this type of scenario?

Thanks,
S

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steve October 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm

@Susan G, You could line up 10 to 20 rain barrels under the roof line and catch the run off or install a gutter system and downspouts.

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Laura November 2, 2011 at 8:09 pm

I’ve been told I need to have a pump in the rain barrel to really water the yard using a hose from the barrel–that gravity won’t be enough. Yet I can’t seem to see pumps offered on rain barrel sites. Any advice?

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steve November 9, 2011 at 6:35 pm

@Laura, There are a number of pumps out there, this one uses solar power, I think the same site offers battery power ones too- http://www.cleanairgardening.com/solar-powered-rain-barrel-pump.html

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Everett November 4, 2011 at 9:33 am

I will be using rain water as my primary water source accept for drinking.Not sure if drums or a single large yet.
Do you recommend a pump and tank bladder system for continuous water pressure? Where can I purchase one?

Thanks,
Everett

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steve November 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm

@Everett, I would try a tank, it will last longer than a bladder and yes a pump will give you the pressure needed. Here is a solar powered pump – http://www.cleanairgardening.com/solar-powered-rain-barrel-pump.html

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laureen November 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I have 2 soap barrels from the care wash – what is the best way to clean the soap out of the – is there anything like bleach or vinegar to cut the soap?

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steve November 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm

@Laureen, Start with water and if that fails try a little more!

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Steve Fleming November 14, 2011 at 1:10 am

Excellent website. Simple, straight-forward, and accurate answers.
Will put this one at the top of my favorites.

Thanks
Steve

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Gloria Sebion November 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Can I leave my plastic rain barrel out in the winter full of water ? Will it crack?

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steve November 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm

@Gloria Sebion@ If you live in southern California or any other location where it’s unlikely it will get below freezing then yes, you can leave it full during the winter. If you live in an area where it freezes then you should drain it and disconnect from the rain barrel from its water source.

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Linda November 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Where can I find a simple kit to adapt my wooden rain barrell to a soaker hose.
Thanks!

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steve November 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm

@Linda, I doubt a kit exists however a hardware store should have the parts you need, in the plumbing section.

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Steve Fleming November 29, 2011 at 1:13 am

Anyone ever reuse barrels originally containing water-based glue?

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Jim Baxter December 3, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Hi there:

Great site: lots of good answers. But not the one I’m looking for. I have a chance to buy barrels to use as rain barrels that originally held 97 % water, 2 % alcohol, 1 % formalin. The seller says “A warm water rinse and they are good to go!”. Can you tell me if this is advisable?

Thanks.

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steve December 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm

@Jim Baxter, If those percentages of what was actually in the barrel are correct then yes, it should be safe to use as a rain barrel once it is washed. Formalin is used to clean fish tanks, it kills the bacteria, and since yours has such a low percentage you will be fine. But as always we do not recommend using water collected from your roof as drinking water.

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Sheridan December 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm

I have a 8 rain barrel system connected with PVC pipes that drains from our roof. I am trying to figure out the best system to winterize our rain barrels, while continuing to use them, in the winter. Because we plan on using them, emptying them for the winter doesn’t work. Our rain barrel won’t crack, but our PVC pipes do. I was thinking of painting them black for the day-hours, and overnight simply removing the pipes and closing the barrels up. Or possibly building a shed around the barrels. Any ideas? Thanks

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steve December 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

@Sheridan, The only other idea to help keep your rain barrel pipes from freezing is to possibly insulate them.

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Bill December 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Here’s a few tips from a painting contractor w/40 years experience:
To prevent algae in barrels & containers place copper inside the containers. You can use pennies or old wiring or plumbing pipe. These can be merely tossed in or epoxied to PVC pipe for easier removal. Ancient mariners used copper vessels to hold drinking water for voyages to keep microbial growths from developing. Roman legionaire placed copper coins in their canteens/gourds to treat water they got from wells, rivers, lakes and ponds.
Barrels that held cleaners and soaps are safe to use without cleaning. Any residue inside will get dissolved by the rain water and aid the water’s penetration into soils, especially clays. Most of the products made to treat lawns and gardens contain surfactants (detergents) for this purpose. All soaps and detergents are biodegradeable, too.
Sometimes you can find companies that sell used 250 gal plastic tanks that once held chemical cleaning compounds. Most have a metal frame and base so they can be moved with a forkllift when full. They usually sell for $25-35 and will fit inside a pick-up bed for hauling. These have an 8″ screw cap on top and a 3″ bottom drain.
Another option is Army surplus fuel bladders. They fold up small and when full resemble giant waterbed mattresses. I’ve seen folks place these beneath raised decks to hold rainwater and used PVC pipe to direct the downspout water into those.
There’s a wide range of electric pumps available. You can get an “on demand” 110 volt pump and fasten it to a cheap dolly that also has a holder for a grounded extension cord. Wheel it out to the tank, hook up the juice and garden hose and go water. The pump only runs when there’s open flow and stops when pressure builds up.
You can drink the water after filtering then boiling it for 10 minutes or more. Then place the water in a jug and agitate for awhile to get oxygen back into it for taste. I did that numerous times when in Boy Scouts on primitive camp-outs where we had to live off the land. (one ordeal like that will cure the pickiest eater fer sure!) You can do that then save the water for later in jugs after adding a small amount of bleach. I have about 100 gallons of tap water saved that for emergencies since our rural water supplier often goes off-line during severe weather that cuts off electricity for their pumps.

The Texas drought wiped out my lawn so am considering turning the backyard into a big truck garden. I’m considering using the 250 gal tanks for roof run-off in conjuction with the treated water from my aerobic spetic system. The speptic water is safe to use on vegetables that grow above the ground (ie; corn, beans, squash). I’ll use the rain water on the tubers.
I saw a website showing how Israel’s farmers grow veggies in containers using large upright PVC pipe with holes in the side that hold the plants. Inside the pipe is a wicking fabric that brings up moisture &nutrients to the plant roots. The plants grow like crazy and they use tall stakes around the base to tie off the vines. These produce an incredible amount in a very small area plus makes harvesting much easier. This method would be ideal for those with limited space or lousy soils.
Hope this info helps!

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Ellen G. December 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I set up a rain barrel for the first time this summer. I love the idea of it. However, we have had so much rain during the last few months that it is full. Here in NJ, I will have to put the barrel away for the winter. What should I do with a barrel full of water? It kind of defeats the purpose of having it to let the water just go down the drain. But the ground is saturated and I don’t need to water anything…. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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Janet December 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm

We would like to use a rain barrel to collect the water coming from our basement sumpump. It exits via PVC pipe connected to downspout. System will need to have a valve to prevent water from going back flowing into basement collection well. Anyone seen such a thing? Ideas?

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Rick December 29, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I have an old oak barrell that was used for whisky. It still has a pretty strong booze smell from the whisky. What can I use to wash it on the inside that will remove the smell? I plan to make it into a bar table for my home bar, so want it to be odorless.

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steve January 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm

@Rick, Try washing the whisky barrel with a mixture of water and vinegar, 5 parts water to one part vinegar. Also, you can try making a mixture of baking soda and water, consisteny of paste and scrube it out with a brush.

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Patty January 8, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Hi Steve,
I’m considering purchasing a 330g IBC tote as a rain barrel that previously contained caustic Lye (NaOH). At best, I know I can avoid making salt water by checking the water ph regularly. Can you offer any other suggestions to watch out for.

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steve January 9, 2012 at 6:58 pm

@Patty, It looks like you should be fine, just keep an eye on any plants that will be watered with the rain water being collected, just to be on the safe side. Also, keep in mind, not knowing the source of the tote, be sure you have a reliable source that what they say the tote was used for is accurate.

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Larry Cunningham January 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Can I make a non food safe 55 gallon Plastic barrel safe by using
Krylon fusion spray paint . They advertize it as being food safe and
its purpose is to be a barrior.

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steve January 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm

@Larry Cunningham, No, I personally would not risk it, eventually that Krylon paint will wear off and leave the original plastic barrel exposed.

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Larry Cunningham January 22, 2012 at 11:19 am

Thanks Should have thought of long term use.
Larry

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Michael Karnuth January 19, 2012 at 2:52 am

Hi there! So I have a qustion, I have closed top barrels about 20 of them I have converted into rain barrels. (The blue plastic barrels) and I also have a underground cictern. My qustion is how do I harvest water with out the gutters, since all the rain from my gutters are being used to fill my home water suppy? I run a small farm and want to use it for irragation. I found a plastic funnal on line but it was 65 bucks! DO the math that 1300 bucks for all 20 barrels! I can’t do that. Any other solutions? I have the capablity of harvesting 1600 gallons an want to do it as effecent as I can.

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steve January 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm

@Michael Karnuth, Sorry but I’m not following your question, first you say “how do I harvest water with out the gutters…” and then you say “the rain from my gutters are being used to fill my home water suppy…”. So you do or do not have gutters?

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Stephanie January 31, 2012 at 5:41 pm

So I’m a serious newbie to collecting and storing rainwater…and before I go all out and buy rain barrels I really just have some basic questions, and you will probably laugh at how stupid they are but here goes! If I put a pot (that I use to cook) on my back porch the next time it rains…is that water safe to drink or do I need to boil it first before drinking? Second, after I have collected, and if need be treated the water, can I just store the water in plastic milk jugs or is that not safe because the jug starts to degrade after a while? What should I use to safely store the water that I have collected to use for drinking and cooking? Thanks and like I said “total newbie” here so be kind!

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steve February 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm

@Stephanie, The water you are attempting to collect, is it coming from your roof or direct from the sky? If from the roof, no, I would not drink it, the shingles are slightly toxic. If collecting the rain water directly falling from the sky, there should not be a problem. Yes, boiling is a good idea incase a bird craps in it, or some other foreign object falls into the water. As for storing water, do NOT use a plastic milk jug, you cannot adequately clean it. Use a plastic 2 liter soda bottle or plastic juice bottle. Thoroughly clean them with hot water and soap, and disinfect them with a mild solution of 1 teaspoon of household chlorine bleach to a qt. of water. Once rinsed with the water and bleach, rinse again with water then add your storage water and seal. Oh, and don’t forget to clean the caps the same way.

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John M February 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm

OK, so I received, as a gift, a pitcher pump and I want to use it with my whiskey barrel turned rain barrel….the box states it will pull water 20′ vertical but the barrel is only about 36 inches deep – will this be a problem or will it sling water out of the pump too fast?

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steve February 6, 2012 at 8:00 pm

@John M, You should be fine.

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scotty February 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I have just inherited a backyard with a very heavy rain barrel full of stagnant water. It is too heavy to move, and I do not want to tip it over and flood the yard. I am trying to remember my high school hydraulics……..can I use a 10 foot length of hose to siphon off the water gradually into a nearby drain? How do I start the siphoning process to get the water flowing thru the hose?

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steve February 6, 2012 at 7:59 pm

@Scotty, Start sucking one end of the hose while the other is in the water, or place one end in the water while the other drapes over the barrel and down to the ground. Stick your hand in the water and thrust the hose up and down for several minutes forcing the water into the hose. Either method should work.

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tanner February 11, 2012 at 12:19 am

I’m trying to help a community build a rainwater harvesting system and we were thinking about using used wine barrels. How do wine barrels affect the system and will they last as long as plastic? Do I need to worry about the barrel drying out? Will the quality of water be affected? The water will ideally be used for watering a garden, not drinking.

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steve February 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm

@tanner, The wine barrels should last for a long time, easily 10 years or more. I doubt they will last as long as plastic but they will look much nicer, and no, you don’t need to worry about them drying out and the water will be fine for your garden.

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Jason February 15, 2012 at 5:36 am

I am looking at designing a rainwater capture system on a portion of my school to water the environmental club’s organic garden. Eight rain barrels will be positioned at downspouts located around a wing of the school. I have a 300 gallon holding tank I plan to raise a couple of feet off the ground in order to water the garden directly using a garden hose. How do I get the water from the barrels to the holding tank? Linking the barrels is not a possibility as I have as much as 500-600 ft to the furthest barrel. Can I use a sump pump to periodically empty the barrels into the holding tank, and simply keep moving the pump from barrel to barrel? How large of a pump do you suppose I’ll need? Can I get away with using a garden hose to transfer the water? Recall that I will need to climb the 5 or so feet at the end of my line to get to the top of the holding tank. Is this at all a possibility? Any other suggestions?

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steve February 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm

@Jason, If you have an electrical outlet nearby you can use just about any pump, however if you don’t have an outlet there is a solar powered pump that will work. Yes, garden hose will work but a larger hose will speed things up since you can increase the volume. Here is a link to a solar pump and standard electric pump.
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/solar-powered-rain-barrel-pump.html
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/electric-water-pump.html

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Kate February 16, 2012 at 3:05 am

I am researching rain barrels because I have always wanted one! I love the old whiskey barrels that are converted but I have a question about them being outside for a long period of time. Do they start to look ugly and grow moss on them or anything since they are wooden? I am wondering if the terra cotta looking ones might look better for a longer period of time. Anyone have any experience about what the oak barrels look like after a few years of being outside in the weather? Thanks so much!!!

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steve February 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm

@Kate, My wife and I drive through the desert every now and then, she sees it as fairly ugly and I think it’s beautiful. So, yes, the barrel may turn a different shade of gray over time, or even get some moss on it, but is it ugly? nope, I think it adds character. You can brush it down a few times a year to keep the moss off, if it does grow but other than that it will age with time just as you and I will.

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Jessie February 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Can I use plastic barrels that used to contain cleaning solutions, or other types of toxic chemicals? I would be using the water to water my vegetable garden. Can they be cleaned out if it’s not safe? If so what can I use to clean them?

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steve February 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm

@Jessie, Ever see that Simpson episode where they found the fish with like 30 eyes? If not, you should, its hilarious and what you are heading for. Nope, I don’t suggest it no matter what anyone says or how well you think you can clean it. Nope, bad news my friend, don’t use it.

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Greg February 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm

What percentage of households own a rain barrel?
Or what is the total number of rain barrels in the US or Canada?

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steve February 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm

@Greg, Since our government does not YET have this question in the census it would only be a guess. I would imagine its extremely low, a small fraction of 1% if even that high.

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Joe February 24, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Should I drill small holes along the top of my barrel so water can drain into the barrel and not rest on top?

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steve February 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm

@Joe, Sorry but thats not enough info to go on. Do you have a downspout from your gutters? If so, cut a hole big enough for the down spout to go into. If not then yes, you will need holes in the barrel top for water to get in to it.

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Joe February 24, 2012 at 5:58 pm

@Steve: the top of my barrels collect about 1/8 of an inch of water. I drilled a few holes at the top and the water slowly drained into the barrels. I also surrounded the top lip of the barrels with small stones. I’ll add a pic when I get the chance.

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Bob February 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I just got a cheap 65 gallon barrel. It does not have a lid per se, but two small plastic plugs on the top of the barrel.
Can I attach fittings without cutting a proper lid and getting inside the barrel to seal them?
If possible, I’d like to try it. I like the two small plugs, and don’t want to have to cut a huge circle out of the top for me to fit through. However, it seems to me that this would not produce a long lasting watertight seal…

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steve February 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm

@Bob, Yes, that will likely work. To make the seal around the rain barrel fittings use some silicone caulking.

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rob February 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

where i live i can collect an average about 69,000 gallons of rain water this season so i bought a 325 gallon tank to use to water my trees shrubs flowers and eventually my lawn once i install a drip system the tank is in a spot where there is no direct sunlight when it rains where i live it rains very hard i have half of my roof draining into the tank i know about screening the inlet and outlet of the tank i am also going to plant bushes in front of the tank what do i have to do or use to keep the tank filled all season?

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steve March 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm

@rob, Yes, either make sure it doesn’t stop raining or don’t use all the water, other than that eventually you will run out. Well unless you have some other way of making water.

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rob March 3, 2012 at 3:59 am

do i have to put in any chemicals or bug repellents in the tank ?

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sllimbri February 29, 2012 at 4:25 am

Can an old wooden barrel still hold water? I don’t like the look of plastic.

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steve March 2, 2012 at 7:32 pm

@sllimbri, Yes, an old barrel, assuming it does not leak, will hold rain water. If it leaks, then the answer is still yes, but it will only hold what’s not leaking out.

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Pam March 5, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I bought 2 rain barrels a few years ago with the intention of using them to water the plants around our house during the summer. The problem is, I can’t get the water to flow through a soaker hose (or any hose, for that matter). I end up filling watering cans from it and walking back and forth to all the plants around the house and that takes WAY too much time. The barrels are already raised about a foot off the ground; will raising them another foot help? Or do I need to get the pump that you’ve recommended to other posters? Or is there another option? Please help!

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steve March 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm

@Pam, Using a standard soaker hoses with rain barrels can work but typically more water pressure is needed which the average rain barrel cannot produce. I suggest changing to a plastic hose with holes in it. You may even want to try a hose with no holes then you can put holes where you need them. Or you can try adding a pump to build the pressure needed.

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Jason Garnett March 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Hi,

I was wondering if it is okay to use a rain barrel, that is connected to a downspout and gutter that drains a roof which is covered in asphalt shingles, to irrigate bushes on which edible berries grow. Would the asphalt shingles in some way taint the edible berries?

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steve March 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

@Jason Garnett, Yes, it will be fine, remember that same water drains off the roof and water bushes and lawns, just don’t drink it.

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Loretta March 9, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Can you drink water collected in rainbarrel if you filter it first? I have a Berkey water filter which is top of line. They say you can filter pond water for safe drinking in an emergency with the Berkey.

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steve March 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm

@Loretta, I would not suggest it but you would need to talk to the manufacturer of the filter and mention the water is coming off the roof.

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jason March 11, 2012 at 3:49 am

can you use rain barrels for gas storage? also i heard you can go places and get them for free do you know of them places?

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steve March 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm

@jason, No, you cannot store gas in rain barrels, it is extemely dangerous and a very bad idea.

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EJ March 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm

In a rain barrel system (3 or more barrels) is it best to chose larger sized rain barrels (3-100gal) or more medium sized ones (4 to 5-65 gal)?

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steve March 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm

@EJ, As far as I know it does not make any difference. I would just buy what is most functional, so if it’s better to have less rain barrels I would go with three 100 gallon rain barrels, however if 5 smaller barrels cost less I would go that route.

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Peter March 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm

How safe is it to use rainwater collected from an asphalt shingle roof or a flat tar roof to water a vegetable garden? Is there any issue with chemicals leaching from the roofing materials that will be absorbed into the vegetables?

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steve March 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm

@Peter, Yes, it is safe to use rain water that has come off a composite roof to water your vegetable garden, I just would not drink it.

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Joey March 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Is it safe for animals such as farm animals to drink water that is roof drained?

What uses can be made from 55gal barrels that once had chemicals in them?

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steve March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm

@Joey, If you have a composite shingled roof there are certain chemicals that can be passed along as the water drains off your roof. I believe they are in very low quantities and for your animals it may be safe however I would not give it to mine. As for barrels once used to store chemicals, I suggest you properly recycle them.

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Bill Burgi March 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I heard that it was illegal to collect rain water…..is that true??

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steve March 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm

@Bill Burgi, Yes, I have heard in some cities or counties it is illegal due to certain restrictions, I suggest you contact your local water department and see what they say. Don’t worry our government is working hard to take care of you just keep quiet and they will do the rest.

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THOMAS March 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm

I have an old wooden barrel that needs the bands replaced, but i’m having a hard time finding replacement bands,where can i go??

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steve March 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm

@Thomas, I doubt you will be able to find any unless you come across a barrel the same size you can take them from. I think you would have to have something like that custom made at a machine shop.

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Karen March 23, 2012 at 11:45 pm

I just purchased 8 blue plastic 55 gallon barrels. I was told they had fish food in them from a fish farm, found out they had formaldahyde in them for treating a parasite on the fish. Ok, so now what? I can’t afford to toss them, can I decontaminate them with vinegar or soap?????

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steve March 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm

@Karen, Yes, a good cleaning of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar should help in decreasing the Formaldehyde in the barrels. Rinse thoroughly and you should be fine when using the barrels to collect rain water and then use to water your garden.

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Lynn Bell March 25, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I am new to rain barrels but want to get one. I plan to put it by the garage, but the gutter is set up so that the water flows out into the alley, not at the end of the garage where I would put it. Is there some way to divert it to the other end? I rent, so don’t want to do anything too drastic. I live in a townhouse in a downtown historic area. Many thanks

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steve March 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Lynn, Move the downspout or move the rain barrel to the existing downspout.

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chip March 26, 2012 at 12:16 am

Hi-
I have four 55 gallon pickle barrels with rings on top. All level but on a downward slope – each on cinderblocks but about 4-6 inches difference between each one. I wanted to know the best way to hook them up.
I want only one spigot at the lowest barrell & so thought I would join them all only across the bottom using T connections from #1 – #4. The gutter downspout would go into the highest #1 and #1 would also have the overflow draining into the yard.
Will all of them fill completely from just the bottom connection even if they are not level?
If not, whats the best way to accomplish getting them all full while at the same time having them with only one spigot on the lowest #4?
I dont want to ruin my barrels and need to know the best way and cant find good info on how to do this when all on a slightly graded slopelike this.

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steve March 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm

@Chip, The best way to fill these barrels with the least amount of water lose would be to use a couple of “y” or “t” joints with the larger size pvc pipe you can use, at least 2″. Basically you want to make a manifold. If you don’t want to go that route then drill and connect water hose to the tops of the barrels. Once the first one fills, the water should drain out the top hose to the next barrel. Then once that second barrel fills, it will go on to the next, etc.

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Chip March 29, 2012 at 6:13 pm

|-=<===<===<===<=== <<==>==>>> overflow pipe
|–|-|
| 1 | |—-|
|_+_| | 2 | |—-|
| |_+_| | 3 | |—-|
|_____| |_+_| | 4 |
|_____| |_+_|
|_____|____+- <- water output spigot
_____________This is the level ground _____________
the rain barrels are at different heights in reference to ground

Is this how you mean to hook up? In the above diagram, all barrels will be ventless and connected at the bottom and ALL the barrels will fill up completely full due to gravity taking the water to the lowest barrel first, right? Once the lowest #4 barrel is full, the #3 will rise until full, then #2 will rise to full and then the #1? All due to the back pressure right? Once the #1 barrel fills up backpressure from it will force out the overflow directly above. Everyone think this will work? The diagram

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chip March 29, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Sorry for the diagram, the site messed it up. You get the idea in the text description though.

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steve March 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm

@Chip, Yes,that should work.

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Nick March 26, 2012 at 3:00 am

I have an old above-ground steel fuel storage tank, about 100-gallons, that I’d like to use as a rain barrel. Some questions:

1. Will it rust from the inside out and eventually leak?

2. If it were to rust would there be too much iron in the water to give to the plants?

3. I’ll guess it hasn’t had fuel in it for 40-50 years, but it smells very, very faintly of diesel fuel. Could I use something like Simple Green to rinse it out, or would the water coming out of it be forever tainted with fuel and too dangerous for vegetables?

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steve March 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm

@Nick, I imagine it will be too toxic to use, however you can test it out and see how it goes. Your local water department may be able to test the rain water coming out of there. Fill it, and take a sample and see what they say. Yes, it may rust out in the future but you will just have to test it to see. No, the iron should not be a problem. Yes, try cleaning it with simple green before filling with rain water.

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rc April 2, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I have a used wine barrel. Since the oak has spent years soaked in red wine, will this water harm my lawn/plants

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steve April 5, 2012 at 1:32 pm

@rc, It should not be a problem, but if you notice is swaying back and forth a little you may want to cut back a little.

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Ross April 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I acquired a sealed (no lid) 50-gallon drum, and would like to put a spigot in without cutting the barrel. Is there a way to attach a 3/4 inch copper spigot securely? In my head, i envision an expanding rubber gasket of sorts, but I’m not sure if it exists. Thanks for your time.

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Dave April 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I have a used whiskey barrel that I’m getting ready to use to collect rain. I have a good design and am ready to get started, but do I need to do anything to the interior of the barrel before I start? Will the bourbon that sat in the barrel for 6+ years and probably seaped into the wood affect my rain water and kill the plants that I water with it? If so, how should I clean the interior and with what? Thanks in advance!

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steve April 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm

@Dave, A Solution of water and vinegar will help rinse it out, and I doubt the residue will harm the plants, just rinse it a few times.

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Megan April 13, 2012 at 2:42 am

I am in the process of creating a rain barrel system for my garden. I am having trouble with the amount of pressure I need to come out of the rain barrel to supply my garden. I have a total of 6 55-gallon drums. I have a group of three at each end of a machinery building which has a dimension of 54’x70′. I have the three drums connected by 3/4” PVC with the down spout coming down to one barrel (physics raises the water level in the others). I have a garden that is 34’x70′. I want to run drip tubbing down each row in my garden. I have left the room (and probably will) to add more drums eventually. I want to see how this works before I put a lot of money into it. Please leave any input! Thank you!

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steve April 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Megan, You will need to add a pump to get the needed pressure to use a drip hose. You may want to use a non standard soaker hose. In other words one with actual holes in it instead of one that weeps. They are usually brown and found at most large hardware stores. You could also try making your own.

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Kerry April 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Would it be better to get a blue barrel compared to a white barrel? I heard that, due to tranlucency and sun, it is easier for algae to grow in the white ones. given that my barrel would be located in the sun, will algae grow sooner or later no matter what the color (translucency)? Also would painting the white one solve the problem?

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steve April 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm

@Kerry, Yes, algae may grow in either one, but one easy way to keep algae away is occasionally drop a few tea spoons of bleach in the water. Approximately 1 teaspoon per 10 gallons should do the trick. This is an approved method in many circles included the US govt.

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Kerry April 19, 2012 at 1:47 am

So no significant difference between white and blue?

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shuchi April 19, 2012 at 12:45 am

I just bought a 300 gallon tote that I plan on using as a rain barrel. The tote had contained brown mulch dye and hence the dye color inside it. Need advise on how to clean this huge tote in a green way before I started using it as a rain barrel.

Thanks !

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steve April 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm

@shuchi, Rinse the tote out with water, drain and use. Since the dye was used for mulch its very unlikely its toxic and if you think it is, then dispose of the tote.

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jeff trillet April 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm

My wife & I bought a wine cask with about an inch of wine still in the bottom and quite a bit of mold. How do I clean the mold out or will it not hurt for a rain water collector for watering plants?

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steve April 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm

@jeff trillet, I doubt the mold will harm the water or your plants but you will likely want to get rid of the mold. Add a few tea spoons of bleach to a gallon of water and rinse the barrel out. If possible try to scrub the barrel with a brush, rinse with bleach again and repeat as necessary.

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Don Whittemore April 23, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Hi, where should the barrel be placed, sunlight or shade? Thanks

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steve April 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm

@Don Whittemore@ The ideal location for your rain barrel is where it will collect the most rain. If you have a choice between placing your rain barrel in a shady or sunny spot, choose the shade, this will help keep the algae level down. To treat algae growth, add a tea spoon of bleach to every 10 gallons

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frances April 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm

howdy! how do i collect rain in the garden without utilizing roof run off? the garden is too too far away. can i make a huge funnel out of something?

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steve April 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm

@frances, Yes, you can make a funnel out of a rigid sheet of plastic or something else and route the water to a collection rain barrel or direct to your garden.

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zoe April 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Does any one know any good web sites on rain barrel facts i need them NOW!!!1

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Jason Garnett May 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm

What can you put in a rain barrel so that the bottom does not get all moldy with the water sitting in it for a week.

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steve May 4, 2012 at 3:25 pm

@Jason Garnett, To help cut down on mold and algae in your rain barrel, I suggest you treat the water with occasional tea spoon or two of bleach. About one or two per 10 gallons of water will do the trick.

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Jim Taylor May 2, 2012 at 1:10 am

I would like to connect a second barrel that will be closer to my garden.What distance can the barrels be and both fill equally? Should the exit from the first barrel be at the top? At what distance will the second barrel not fill any higher? Should the second barrel entry fill be at half height? Equal height at both barrels? The connecting hose will be at ground level with a slight decline of 4″ between the 2 barrels, the first barrel is elevated 12″ off the ground.The distance I would like to separate would be 200′-225′.

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steve May 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm

@Jim Taylor, The water from your rain barrel will travel the path with the least resistance. Start the first barrel from your down spout higher and gradually daisy chain the others lower. The larger the hose the better, but a simple garden hose will work. Traveling 200 or more feet will work but any resistance will affect the flow.

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RZ Girl May 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm

We just put on a new asphalt roof, can we use rain barrels ? Does the roof need time for chemical release?

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steve May 4, 2012 at 3:20 pm

@RZ Girl, Yes, the water from your new roof will be safe to fill your rainbarrel and then use to water plants, gardens, trees, etc, but not safe for drinking water.

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Brian May 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I came across some barrels with removable tops that contained a natural peppermint oil based salve. The seller didn’t know if it was food grade plastic or not. The barrels with product were shipped from Switzerland. My questions are
1.) Is there any way to tell if they were food grade?
2.) If they aren’t food grade, can I still use them for gardening?
3.) Can I use them for emergency water if I filter the water with a suitable “survival” ceramic filters you see online?
Thanks!

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Sarina May 14, 2012 at 11:08 pm

I’ve been using a rainbarrel for several years. Occasionally the water comes out tinted green and has a strong sulfur smell. Is it safe to use on vegetables? Or should I drain the barrel and clean it?

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steve May 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

@Sarina, The water in your rain barrel has likely become a little stagnate. Add a teaspoon or two of bleach for every 10 gallons of water. The stagnate water or the bleach will not harm the vegetables.

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Linda Allen May 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I saw a large plastic “cone” on This Old House used to collect rainwater for a rainbarrel so that it didn’t need to be collected from a downspout. Any idea where to purchase one?

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cathy troup May 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

hi i was told to use silicone to seal pipe into water barrel but this has made the water white in the barrel will this harm my plants if i use it thanks

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steve May 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

@cathy troup, I think you need teflon tape. Unthread the pipe wrap the thread in teflon tape and rethread it back. Be sure to wipe off the silicone.

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Connor May 23, 2012 at 11:37 am

Is it okay to use rain barrel water to top off the swimming pool?

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steve May 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm

@Conner, Yes, there should not be a problem using rain water to fill your pool.

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Tiffiny May 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm

My question is ….. I would like to use one of these at our little town park ( our population is 347 ) is it safe to have one at a park? is there some that come with locks? and how do u keep the kids out of them? lol!

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steve May 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Tiffiny, Your thoughts on safety and rain barrels is very serious; a child can drown in a very small amount of water so you should never keep an open rain barrel near an area like a park. Simply buy a rain barrel with a lid and use screws or latches to keep it secured.

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Don May 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I’m trying to find the best way to divert water from a roof without gutters, I have an awning and I don’t think a complete gutter system would be necessary to suit my needs my question is is there a way to partially divert water from both the awning and a small section of the roof to my rain barrel? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

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steve May 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm

@Don, I suggest you use a piece of flashing. Typically it is used on the roof above a door to keep the rain from flowing off the roof in that area. You can use some flashing to direct the water toward a particular area on the roof to be collected by gutters in that particular area then into your rain barrel.

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Tammy May 26, 2012 at 2:05 am

Hi – we live in Canada, but have a little place by the ocean in Birch Bay; we don’t like to leave the water on for the watering system, when we leave, so have purchased a plastic rain barrel; we would like to put a timer on it and a pump inside – would this work – could you point me in the direction of some instructions so my husband can figure this out. Thanks. Tammy

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steve May 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

@Tammy, A standard submersible water pump should work, typically called a sump pump. A timer will help give you some control over when you water. The float switch is something to take into consideration as well. It will make sure the pump only runs when water is in the rain barrel, so the motor does not burn up.

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tom May 29, 2012 at 5:56 am

I read somewhere that if you put your 55 gallon rain barrel on 3 cinder blocks gives you more pressure for watering the garden with a 50 foot garden hose. It is a closed top plastic barrel..is this true on the pressure and does it get more pressure with the more rain water it collects??

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steve May 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

@tom, Yes, raising your rain barrel will help with water pressure. The amount it helps is minimal but you will see a slight increase in pressure but since you are just letting the water run out of those hose you are relying more on gravity to feed the water to its ultimate destination.

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Trainman May 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm

What to do if my wine 55 gallon rain barrel leaks,or is that common?

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steve May 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

@Trainman, If your rain barrel leaks, I suggest you fix the leak, i.e., plug it.

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paul June 1, 2012 at 9:40 pm

hello! very informative site, thanks steve. i have an odd question and it has nothing to do with green algae or mosquitoes or drinking the water or previously held chemicals in the barrel. i think you’ve answered those over and over enough!
i’m a complete newbie to rain barrels. my city, columbus ohio, has a program where you can buy a 40 gallon rain barrel for $50. i’ve wanted to get one for a while so i purchased one. the picture was nice, they had a lid that doubled as a planter when flipped upside down and could be screwed securely shut. when i went to pick up my rain barrel, they had a few extra from last year that were 60 gallon. since bigger is better, i got that instead. my question is about the lid. on the larger barrel, the lid flips over and although it is more shallow than the 45 gallon lid, it still fits rather securely on the top of the barrel, but was not designed as a planter and does not screw shut while upside down. do lids on rain barrels need to be sealed or as close to water tight as possible, or is this more of a safety issue and to make sure debris does not enter the barrel? with soil in the lid it will be heavy enough to snugly fit the top of the barrel, but there are two spots where the handles lock that leave small gaps. would there be any issues that would make this a bad idea to do? thanks in advance for such a bizarre question!

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steve June 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm

@paul, If you plan to use a device like the “Garden Watersaver Downspout Attachment” linked below, it works best with a sealed barrel. If just having your downspout dump into the rain barrel then no, it does not have to be sealed. But yes a closed and secured rain barrel is best for safety reasons. If the plants/dirt on top keeps it fairly well secured you should be fine. http://www.cleanairgardening.com/gawadoat.html

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Barrie June 6, 2012 at 5:30 am

Hi there,

Hoping you can answer a question or two. I have a rain barrel, but the barrel seems to be too high for where the gutter has a clean cut off. How do you go about cutting the gutter in a straight line and then pushing it out far enough so that it actually hits the rain barrel? Are there ‘already bent’ gutter parts at hardware stores? I’m totally new to this so any advice/resources on gutter parts would be great.

And my second question is we live in Seattle. We know that our 55-gallon barrel will probably fill up pretty fast (especially how this Spring is turning out so far). What’s going to happen once it fills to the point of overflowing? Do they usually tip over, and if so how do you prevent that from happening (is that why people use cinder blocks, besides the elevation)? Or do we have to make sure our yard is rain wise/downhill/whatever other word people keep throwing at me (that just leaves me asking more questions)?

I hope you can help.

Thanks,
Barrie

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steve June 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm

@Barrie, You need a flex elbow, they are made of plastic and will allow you to adjust the way the water goes into the rain barrel. It looks like this: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/dowred.html and most hardware stores have them. As for your second question, when it fills up it will over flow, and if it’s a sealed barrel it will back up your downspout, so you should have an overflow with a hose connected so the water flows to your lawn or garden. If the rain barrel is on a stable foundation it will not fall over.

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Moose June 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Thanks for your very informative site. I wanted to comment that I have a 57-gallon plastic rain barrel, which I just installed two weeks ago; I purchased it from Home Depot. It has a diverter hose that comes off the downspout tube from the roof of the house; it was very easy to install — took about 30 minutes — and it works like a charm. The barrel filled up completely after just two fairly light rainfalls, so I’m pleased at the prospect of using it for watering my container vegetable garden. However, I am also planning for the long-term possibility of a survival situation developing, and am considering using the water from the barrel as a worst-case supply of drinking water, after first treating it with bleach (which I am already doing to mitigate mosquitoes) and then running it through a Berkey Black water filter unit (I also have a decent-sized lake in my back yard, and I plan to use that water, sanitized and filtered, for drinking purposes as well, if necessary). I’ve read about using mosquitofish and goldfish in the barrel for mosquito control, and I think I will give that a try after the bleach I just added wears off. I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts or experience to offer regarding usage of the water from the barrel for emergency drinking purposes, if it’s sanitized with an appropriate amount of bleach and run through a Berkey filter unit. I’m also curious about how much bleach added to kill mosquitoes would be too much for the health of my garden — I’d like to strike a good balance. Finally, I believe that the Berkey filter system would be more than able to filter out any contamination from mosquito dunks if I were to go that route, but I would be interested to hear if anyone is familiar with this specific question and has any experience with it. Any thoughts? Thanks.

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steve June 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm

@Moose, Instead of using bleach to kill the mosquitoes laying eggs in your rain barrel, I suggest using this: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/mosquito1.html
As for adding bleach, using 1 tablespoon per 10 gallon and that will keep back algae but the mosquito dunks are better to resolve mosquito issues in your rain barrel.

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Ally B June 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Hello, question about manifold systems. This term simply refers to piping from several different barrels joining into a single pipe, correct? Or does it specifically have to do with the piping coming from the bottom of the barrels?

Relatedly, what are the pros and cons of a manifold system coming from the bottom of the barrels versus similar piping coming from the sides (but obviously still low on the barrels)? The only con I can think of for the former is that keeping a few gallons in the bottom of the barrels is recommended for stability.

Thanks!

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steve June 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm

@Ally B, Yes, a manifold when talking about rain barrels is simply allowing multiple lines to run into one. It can be used at the bottom or top and yes, keeping some water in the barrel will help with stability.

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Emily June 13, 2012 at 11:39 am

I have a garden in a lot that is not near to my house, and I would like to install something to catch rainwater for my gardening purposes. Is a rainbarrel still a feasible option if there is no roof for collecting run-off? Or is there another method I could try to collect rainwater in this open area?

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steve June 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm

@Emily, No its not feasible unless you can create a large area to draw the water, like a funnel. Open rain barrels will not only not collect enough water but it’s a death trap for small children and animals that could potentially fall into the open barrel and drown. Do a search for rain barrel funnel or rain barrel saucer and see what you come up with. I believe there is something on the market that will work.

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Ed Domanick June 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Great website. I got a lot of good ideas from it. I do have 1 question though. I have seen you say to help control algae to add bleach. Just to be clear, is it 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons?

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steve July 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm

@Ed Domanick, For preventing algae you can go with one teaspoon but if it’s already started go with 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons of water.

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Phyllis June 21, 2012 at 12:14 am

what kind of pump do i need to use to water the yard from a rain barrel. Maybe hook a sprinkler to the garden hose and water from the rain barrel as well.

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steve July 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Phyllis, Unless you have multiple rain barrels or one larger than several hundred gallons watering your lawn with a sprinkler will not work very well. With just a 50 or 60 gallon rain barrel it will empty in a matter of minutes and not provide enough water for your lawn. Rain barrels are best suited for watering flower beds, trees, and small gardens. If you have a large rain barrel and want to use it to water your lawn you will need a pump with at least enough power to create 30 to 40 gallons per minute. Most hardware stores have some kind of pump that you can make work with the right fittings that they should have as well.

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Melissa June 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I bought a new rain barrel from Menards this year. Hooked it up just as the directions said to. Placed it on blocks to elevate it. Using a water can instead of a hose. No pump. Lots of rain so the barrel has been flushed several times. Problem is… My flowers look awful this year. I always have a very pretty flower garden and garden containers. Sweet Potato Vines are doing fine.. but the putunias look wilted and starved. I water once a day.. just as I have always done. After doing a few Googles about problems with Rain Barrels I have found that rain collected from some roofs may not be ideal for rain collecting. I’m so upset thinking that I might be harming my plants. I have a flat roof ( mobile home ). I have it coated with a white roof paint about every 3 years. Last time I had it coated was 3 years ago. Gutters and down spouts are standard material. Should I have the water tested? Or is there a way to test it? Like a kit?

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steve July 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm

@Melissa, Yes, have the water tested at your local county extension or contact your water department and they may have a suggestion on were you have it tested.

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Dorothy June 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Can I attach a soaker hose to my rain barrell and what’s the best system to buy? I’m not too handy, but maybe I could install it myself?

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steve July 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm

@Dorthy, Yes, you can hook up a soaker hose to your rain barrel system. The best one will be one that requires the least amount of water pressure.

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Kae Rae July 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Truth be told I didn’t read ALL the questions and answers so if I missed it just let me know and I’ll go through em! So I am in the process of creating a self sustaining house. I intend on having a gray water system to cover the watering of my lawn and live in an area that is already ridiculously humid as it is PLUS rainy season. Here are my questions.
1. With the correct PSI could I use it to do run my washer, sinks, and showers? ( I do know for sinks and such that you should filter it or boil the water before using it for drinking or rinsing off food.)
2. Is there a way to hook my rain water system up to my gray water system so that what is left from the washer, shower,sinks can go to my yard so I’m truly bringing it full cycle and using every bit of water.
3. Could, if it snows, I collect the snow and boil that down to maintain my water supply all year?
4. Or to save on a process or two have a large 50 gallon metal drum over a outdoor fire pit to heat all the water at once so I can use it on a regular basis for whatever I like?

Additional Info:
My house is going to be mostly submerged in the ground.

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steve July 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm

@Kae Rae, Yes, with the right pressure you should have no problem using your collected rain water to run your washer, sinks and shower, the question is, do you have enough storage capacity and supply of water. Yes, there is a way to “hook my rain water system up to my gray water system” but because there are so many different options I suggest you contact a local plumper or talk to someone at a hardware store. Yes, you could collect the snow and boil it down to use as a water source. Yes, you can use a outdoor fire pit to melt the snow, just keep in mind it take a fair amount of snow just to make 1 gallon of water, especially if you have dry snow in your location.

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Mindy M July 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm

The water i my rain barrell is stagnant (smelly). What can I do to solve this problem??

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steve July 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

@Mindy M, I suggest you empty it in your garden or flower bed, give it a good rinse and wash it with a mild solution of vinegar and water. Then once it begins to fill again add a teaspoon of bleach per 10 gallons of water to prevent algae, etc

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Josh July 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I have a hose attached for my rain barrel’s overflow. New hose and it never works. If I remove it and reattach it then it works. I shouldn’t have to do that any ideas why? Any recommendations?

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steve July 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm

@Josh, Sorry Josh that’s a mystery, maybe try Alfred the Hedgehog, that guy solves all kinds of mysteries.

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Chrsity July 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Could I use a product like Walex Elemonate in my rain barrel and still use the water on flowers?

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steve July 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm

@Chrsity, As far as I know Walex Elemonate is non toxic and will not harm your flowers. You could always test it on one plant first and see how it goes.

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mike July 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Just installed a 2 barrel system. We had no rain for almost 3 weeks after installing. Finally had a 15 minute rain yesterday. The water in barrels is brown. Is this just from the roof shingles and should I use to water plants? Thanks

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steve July 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

@mike, Yes, it’s likely just from the shingles and should be safe on your plants. If you are still concerned take it down to the water department and have it tested.

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mia July 18, 2012 at 2:44 am

i am able to get barrels that held lye. would this, after cleaning somehow, be safe to use as a rain barrel?

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steve July 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm

@mia, Lye can be very dangerous, so we do not recommend it. However, if you insist, please wear rubber gloves and protective goggles when cleaning out the barrels. Lye can burn or irritate the skin and eyes.

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John Harris July 25, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Hello, I am planning a collection system. I have two 50 gallon barrels the same size and have acquired a tank approximately 100 gallons in size.

I would like to hook them up so one tank will feed another. I understand about simply connecting them in series, however what happens when the series of tanks are different sizes as mine?

Thanks…John

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steve July 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

@John, As long as the rain barrels are staged from highest to lowest gravity should allow the water to drain to the lowest rain barrel.

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Liz July 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I have several barrels I want to use to harvest rainwater. They don’t have a top that comes off, but have 2 bungs on the top. The question I have is how I attach the spigot at the bottom, as I cannot reach the inside that far down to attach a washer etc. to make it watertight? Every place I’ve found info about making rainbarrels assumes you can access the inside to get that good seal?!

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steve July 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm

@Liz, Try drilling a hole in the rain barrel slightly smaller than the spigot, thread it in a seal with silicone caulking. Otherwise you will need to cut the top off and reattach it somehow once the spigot is added.

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eileen July 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I recently moved to Portland and bought a house that has a rain barrell. It doesn’t appear to be attached to any hose and I have no idea how to use it, efficiently or inefficiently. Can you help>

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steve July 31, 2012 at 6:58 pm

@eileen, Locate the water where it will best collect water from the roof. If no downspout just put it below a valley in the roof. Run a hose from the rain barrel to your garden, flower bed, yard or tree and use the water that is collected.

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phil September 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Great web site, but I have a 250gal plastic container that had 30 percent caustic soda in it . Can this be used for flower beds and grass if I give it a good flushing ? I would appreciate it if you could email me an answer Thank you very much. Phil

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steve September 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm

@phil, Sorry but we cannot recommend using this barrel. Caustic soda, also known as Sodium hydroxide, can burn your skin and if proper protective clothes and goggles are not used someone could get burned. I suggest you properly dispose of this container.

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Sandy September 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I’ve got a couple of 55 gallon barrels from a car wash I’m going to be using for rain barrels. Also got a 20 gallon one with plastic handles that had suds in it. If I cleaned it out well could I use it to store drinking water in for emergency purposes? Seems it would be ok, the suds didn’t have a strong chemical scent and there is no other residue. .

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steve September 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

@Sandy, You are guessing it only had suds in it, if you are fine with risking your health on a guess then best of luck to you.

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Steve September 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm

There is no place on my rain barrel to install a spigot. Can you provide instructions on how to install a spigot or a web site that already has a step-by-step instruction? I’ve searched numerous sites and haven’t been able to find any help.

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lars September 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm
Barbara October 1, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I’ve just had a rain barrel installed. The overflow spigot has a stonger flow than the lower spigot. The installer says this is normal, but it seems as if the bottom one should be stonger or at last as stong as the top one.
Thank you.

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steve October 3, 2012 at 2:12 pm

@Barbara, Are the the valves the same size? Could there be something blocking the lower spigot? Yes, I would agree the lower should show greater flow, so I can only guess something is either blocking it or the lower is much smaller.

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Susan April 3, 2016 at 11:39 pm

My church has big downspouts, 4×5″, and someone purchased rain barrels before deciding on a diverter system. The barrels have top openings. I want to use a diverter kit so that the water will fill the barrel and then divert down the downspout again. Can I use the top inlet or should I drill another inlet hole on the side? Thanks!

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Shannon April 6, 2016 at 10:50 pm

My husband mentioned that the rain barrel hadn’t been collecting water. We purchased and set it up last September. I noticed that there is mildew inside the hose that’s attached from the gutter to inside of rain barrel. It took the end that was inside the barrel out and have tried spraying water up inside of it to remove the mildew. Water is coming out of the gutter when I do this but it’s not really separating the mildew. Any recommendations? I’ve inspected the barrel for any cracks/leaks and it’s fine. I’ve also taken removed the small hose from the spigot and ran water through the small hose to make sure it wasn’t clogged. Neither were clogged. The remaining water was dumped out of the barrel from the spigot hole. I’ll have to wait and see if it retains the water when it rains again. I welcome any assistance!

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Eileen schubert April 30, 2016 at 1:24 pm

We have a rain barrel that is connected to the downspout. There is a cut in the downspout and a system of “baffles” and holes to accommodate a hose from the downspout to the barrel. There is a hole in the side of the barrel about 3 inches down from the top. I have noticed that not all the water is going into the barrel. Do you have a diagram that shows this type? I think it is not set up correctly.

Thanks Eileen schubert

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Ken S May 2, 2016 at 7:41 pm

I want to make rain barrels out of containers that contained 65% propionic acid which was used as a preservative for bales of hay for livestock. How can I safely clean them?

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Luke Mutter May 3, 2016 at 11:10 pm

How do I stop the barrel from splitting during the winter? If it has water in, which freezes, it splits the barrel open.

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Jacques Boivin May 15, 2016 at 8:19 pm

I was given a few water barrels that were used by an airline as counterweight . they were filled with water when I got them.
I noticed that at one time they may have contained either potassium acetate or sodium formate.
How should I clean them before i used them i want to used them to grow potato in them??
Thx

Jacques

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Barbara Schiller May 20, 2016 at 11:25 am

I bought a rain barrel from a winery and was wondering if the alcohol residue in the barrel will hurt the plants? I plan on spraying it out with the power washer but I’m sure the residue will remain in part.

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Danne May 22, 2016 at 6:03 pm

What do you think of using 50 gallon blue plastic barrels that originally contained Blue Def. Will only be watering plants with it. Think it’s safe?

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Ml thomas May 23, 2016 at 3:17 am

Will a rain barrel support a hose and sprinkler for the lawn??

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Rand McFarland May 23, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Where should I locate my rain barrel?

I have tow choices. One location gets direct sunlight from dawn until noon. The other is shaded all day.

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Anna June 4, 2016 at 11:54 pm

I have a 50 gallant barrel that use to have a cleaning agent in it. If I rinse it really well, could I use it to collect rain to water plants?

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Joan kaul June 8, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Can I use water stored for 25 yrs in barrel, on my vegetables?

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steve May 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm

@Jose, Formaldehyde is very toxic for animals, and even diluted it can be dangerous to both humans and animals, using it as a rain barrel is not a good idea. It’s also corrosive; however a thick plastic liner may work. I suggest you properly recycle it, and look for a food grade barrel just to be on the safe side.

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