Rain Barrels

Both environmentally concerned and financially concerned homeowners can make an impact with rain barrels installed outside of the home. Precipitation collection systems have been in use since the dawn of man, when drought could do serious damage to a family or community. Over the centuries, collection methods have become more sophisticated, and modern tanks can hold hundreds of gallons of water. These collection devices are normally made from plastic, stainless steel, fiberglass or concrete. Most are designed with an opaque outer layer to prevent algae from growing inside. They are easy to install and usually come prebuilt, so a homeowner can place them without any technical knowledge.

As the world population increases and more parts of the world undergo development, the available water supply is becoming more of a concern. In the U.S., at least 35 states are projected to suffer from water shortages before long, placing a huge amount of strain on infrastructure dedicated to delivering water. Homeowners who waste water contribute to this strain and will have to pay greater water rates in the future if the trend does not slow down. Rain barrels are just one part of the conservation equation, but they provide significant and immediate benefits to the household.

Precipitation collection systems are typically designed to catch runoff from roofs or gutters
. It doesn’t take long to fill up a standard 55-gallon drum, because a single inch of rain can generate approximately 620 gallons of useable water (assuming a roof size of about 1,000 square feet). Along the Gulf Coast, where annual rainfall can exceed 50 inches, more than 30,000 gallons of water are harvestable in this way. The average U.S. household uses around 80 gallons of water a day, so a precipitation collection system can provide almost all of the water a family needs every year, assuming there is enough precipitation and that the water is safe for consumption.

Rain barrels designed for drinking must come with some kind of filtration and an insect screen to keep mosquitos from infesting the water. Precipitation is naturally pure, but it can pick up airborne pollution that settles on roofing as it runs off. This water should be filtered if it is going to be consumed, but it safe for all other applications, including yard watering. In some homes, water tanks can also provide additional insulation because water is highly effective at absorbing heat energy.

By reducing strain on local infrastructure, a household will protect the environment from overconsumption of natural water resources. Reduced utility consumption will also cut down bills and save the family a significant amount of money every year. Also, water that’s trapped before it has a chance to escape into the sewage system prevents oils and other pollutants from getting swept into streams and from infiltrating the groundwater supply. In short, it is an investment that benefits everyone from nature to man.

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