THE Rain Barrel Thread


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I'm hoping to create a thread full of rain barrel ideas and discussions. I found a few threads asking specific questions, but I'd like this to be place where everyone can post a pic of theirs and what makes their setup unique.

I haven't started mine yet, but that's going to be an early spring project. I hope to make a pretty tall base to give good water pressure to the adjacent raised bed veggie garden. I might feed it to a soaker hose or an slow-drip irrigation system, we'll see. Underneath the base I'm hoping to have some usable storage space for buckets, watering cans, and other garden supplies.

I've read mixed reviews on using collected rainwater for veggies, due to contamination from roofing materials and animal droppings. Anyone here have thoughts / links to useful resources on the topic? It will be runoff from my flat-roof garage with a rubber roof. Thus far I haven't found any info on the risk of contamination from rubber roofing.

Please post pictures of your setup! How high off the ground? How did you make your base / tower? Does it flow into an irrigation system? How many gallons is it, and how much of your garden does it sustain? Did you beautify it with a cover or trellis? What would you have done differently?

Thanks in advance for your input!
 
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Don't have the foggiest idea what "bueller" means, but we have rainwater collection on our little farm, for vegetable and flower gardens, and for watering our hens.
We have three 250 gal. cubes and two 55 gal. barrels collecting house/garage roof water, with two of the 250 gal. cubes collecting water off the tin roof of the barn. Since our ground water has a high arsenic content, we really aren't worried about contamination from animal (bird) droppings and roofing materials. We checked with several knowledgeable sources about roofing material contamination, and were told that after one year all the stuff that was going to wash off had washed off and the water was fine.
We don't drink it, we use it for watering the gardens. The cubes are about two feet off the ground and set on cement blocks. We modified the outlets to accommodate garden hoses which we haul out to water the fruit trees. The barrels are a "dip and carry"--we have watering cans that we dip into the barrels and hand water flowers and herbs.
We don't "beautify" because here in Texas anything that holds water is considered gorgeous!
Here are photos:
Water Collection 1.jpg
Water Collection 2.jpg
 
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I just use a couple of 42 gallon trash cans to catch my rain water. Super clean water only 11 ppm of impurity, equal to distilled water which is 17 ppm. I call it SUPER WATER and use it for my plants and have done it for many years.
 

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I just use a couple of 42 gallon trash cans to catch my rain water. Super clean water only 11 ppm of impurity, equal to distilled water which is 17 ppm. I call it SUPER WATER and use it for my plants and have done it for many years.
I use to use my city-provided 96-gallon trash cart, much like what's pictured below, but it soon started showing a small crack. So now I'm stuck with using large buckets until I get the gumption to buy an actual rain barrel.



1586169595403.png
 
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Rain barrels aren't expensive.


I've been considering buying one now we no longer have a koi pool and are also on a water meter. My weekly purge of its bottom drain gave me several gallons of suitable water for our many azaleas and rhodos. This water was always slightly acidic, (koi pass twice their own body weight in urine daily).

I guess rain water which will be more acidic than chlorinated tap water will be better fior them.
 
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Rain Water Harvesting/Diverting Journey

OK, let's talk about Rain water Harvesting, but first, let me say that this project started off as a means to divert water to keep my yard and patio from flooding and turned into a rainwater harvesting project. First a few observations about Rain Water Catchment for me personally in my area.

  • Will the rain barrel system pay for it self over time? NO, not in my lifetime anyway, but practicing environmental stewardship is a plus. I am guessing I will save $2.00 per 255 gallon fill, not a very cost effective thing to do considering I have spent $580.00 over the course of this venture. So based on 4 fills @255 gallons each, and the current rate of water in Philadelphia, it will take me 72 years to break even.
  • Will it help during a drought? YES, but severe droughts to the point of restricting water is very unlikely in the Philadelphia area but it has happened.
  • Is rainwater better for your plants? I would like to think so, but there are many differences of opinions on that subject and it's not worth getting into.
  • Did you have buyers remorse during this project? ABSOLUTELY, but I'm hoping it subsides over time if the project is a success.
  • So why do it? Catching then Diverting water is a priority for me. I have no place to output my water during a heavy rain so catching the water and utilizing it over time is my preferred option.


Let's back up a bit and I'll explain my current situation.

Quite a few years ago, I done some work to the yard that traps the water like a pond. Everything looks great but when the rains come, you can tell that I did not take drainage into consideration, most noticeably when hit by large volumes of rain in a short period of time.

I live in a twin home that is on a hill, the neighborhood yards all slope down to the next yard, each house has a 2.5" yard drain 10' from the house, the yard slopes to this drain and this drain works fairly well. The sloping of the yards also help run-off to the city sewers during heavy rains, however, my neighbor attached to me and the neighbor above her don't like to keep their yard drains clear. During heavy rains my drain couldn't handle three yards. I compounded the problem by leveling the sloping side of my yard with a retaining wall, the retaining wall is slightly higher than the drain and patio.

I have a very hard clay soil, so ground absorption is minimal, but just enough to make a muddy mess of the yard. I have two dogs that make it near impossible to grow grass. It was so bad that I had to tear up my carpets that were destroyed from the years of traffic from the back yard. I had to forego carpet and install vinyl flooring in the basement. I have tried combating this by seeding the lawn with white clover.

The homes in the back, where our back yards connect are built the same way, their yards are a good 6' higher than my yard, I had installed retaining walls in the back and water is not a problem there.

A few years after a couple of close calls of my basement flooding out, I put in a pressure treated 6x6 the length of the patio as a divider between me and my connected neighbor, this was lagged in place and sealed with silicone.
Then I built sort of a berm from the patio the length of my yard separating my neighbors yard from mine, so I wouldn't become inundated with rain from all three yards, the results were good for me, but bad for her, her basement eventually flooded. Shortly thereafter, she started cleaning her drain, not sure about her neighbor though.

Everything was fine until I installed a patio, during heavy rains the water would fill up the patio and leave mud behind, however, installing a patio was a must and had to be done because nothing would grow under the deck and was mud anyway. I compounded the problem even further when I built raised beds along the retaining wall, trapping the water even more.

A few seasons ago I put in some under-decking and that has alleviated some of the problem, not much but some, when I installed the rain gutters, rain barrels, trenched out a bit, channeled the water a bit, planted some clover and put in a Rain garden, I saw a noticeable difference and there was hope.
I even went as far as planting a crop of Oats to help till the hard clay, I think it helped quite a bit, but there was more to do.


So as my tale grows, it has led me to this point in time where I want to improve drainage/water retention even more. Becoming a bit more environmentally friendly is a by-product of this project.

Here in Philly we get a good amount of precipitation approximately 40"+ a year and I have been dabbling with rainwater collection but nothing serious until 2018. The rain sometimes comes in one shot, 1" of rain in a short period of time isn't unheard of.

Improving on my rainwater collection/water diverting system is part of my 2019 spring strategy. My primary goal is to catch and divert the water in between rains. The water will be used to top off the ponds where natural evaporation will take place and to water the gardens and yard.

  • Here are a few ideas I tried this season. Installed a a 2x6 PT wood barrier in front of the patio to divert water to the drain.

  • Installed a mini Rain Garden in front of the drain, you can see where the pavers are lifted, the drain is behind that opening.


  • Planted Oats to till the clay soil, this actually worked really well when the plants were growing. Seeded the yard with white clover.



  • Planted Cantaloupes and Sunflowers in front of the patio.


  • Put in a few guilds, not sure how much these really help.



  • This guild is literally right next to the pavers on the step. Next to the Hugelkultur beds is an area where I just had some blueberries, I added Comfrey and Maypops, a lot of water runs here.


 
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Earlier this season, I installed a 55 gallon rain barrel that feeds the Koi Pond that has worked out well.
  • Here is a breakdown of my current, "temporary", Rainwater collection. The Koi pond barrel is behind the step. This barrel catches the rainwater from the roof that is over top of my bar on the deck. Let's refer to that as the, "Koi Pond Rain Barrel". Let's take a quick peek at that.




  • Feed coming from the gutter on the Bar roof that is on the deck, this area is approximately 96 sq' and according to on line calculators, each rainfall of 1" will give me 60 gallons of rainwater.

8' x 12' roof is over this bar area.








  • There is a valve attached to this barrel with short strain relief hose followed by a hose "Y". One side of this "Y" feeds a low pressure Toro timer, this timer has a 1/4" supply line that runs to the veggie filter in the pond. The timer cycles on and off twice a day for a specified time depending on the time of year. This gravity feeds the pond at a slow rate, maybe a gallon every 10 minutes or so.


  • There is an overflow valve that channels under the pavers and comes out along side of one of my Hugelkultur beds.



  • The other side of the "Y", feeds a shutoff valve with a garden hose. This valve can be used to fill 5 gallon buckets, wash hands, feet and rinse stuff off. This will be removed once the new rain barrel system is installed.

  • I believe adding the water lettuce has helped in reducing pond evaporation.
 
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  • This is the under-decking, this under-decking catches quite a bit of water. It's not pretty but it is functional. Subtracting the roof sq. footage over the bar, this area is approximately 256 sq' and according to on line calculators, each rainfall of 1" will give me 160 gallons of water.
Rain calculator "here" .



I had an "open-lid" Rain barrel in the back yard that just sat under the edge of the under-decking to catch some water, I would also put out 5 gallon buckets and was impressed by the amount of water that was captured.

I had a pool pump in the "open-lid" barrel with a hose for watering the plants, the top was covered with screen. This pump was on a switch, so I would just turn on the pump and water the plants.
What I have been doing earlier this year was deep watering the plants a few days before a rain forecast and topping off the backyard pond.

I do this so the rain barrels will not over flow excessively. The barrel in the back was for storing extra rain water. I wont be using either of these barrels in the new system.



  • I installed some gutters to divert the water for harvesting, the gutters were going to be installed regardless of me harvesting rain water or not. I needed to divert the water to the lawn because it was pouring out on the side patio and running back onto the patio under the deck, but even diverting to the lawn was not the answer.







I removed the open top barrel and replaced with a closed top and ran a shop vac hose from the gutter to the barrel, there is no over flow other than when it fills up, the water comes out of the loosened cap. There is a transfer pump mounted to the deck and the pump is always primed as it is below the outlet of the rain barrel, the output of the rain barrel is connected to the input of the transfer pump with a short washing machine hose (female threads both ends), the output of the transfer pump has a zero gravity hose fitted with a Super Nozzle.



  • I installed the pump and a zero gravity hose with a needle nozzle sprayer, so far its working well.


  • Here is a short video of the pump and nozzle in action. The shaky video starts out showing the Koi Pond Barrel and overflow then goes to the back yard and the (noisy) pump is turned on. I can reach any place in the yard including the side of the house.



The project has taken a bit of a nose dive, the 90g Barrel I had ordered was cancelled after a two month wait. I really wanted an aesthetically pleasing rainwater collection system but may have to resort to standard 55 gallon drums. I really hate the idea of having three or even 4 rain barrels taking up the yard and creating an eyesore. There however is the idea of painting the barrels to compliment the yard, who knows.

This week I have been tweaking my Rain Water Collection a bit trying to come up with another game plan. I turned off my irrigation on the 14th with a full 55 gallon barrel full of rainwater to get an idea what my usage would be. By the end of the summer, I should have a good indication of the capacity needed to divert the water. I am hoping my usage matches up with the harvested rainwater.
As I write this I am getting more and more angry at Hayneedle for screwing me with my order, out of frustration I ordered this 165 gallon monster, there... I did it! Now all of my problems are solved... lol.


  • 165 gallon tank - 31" Diameter x 56" Height Polyethylene with UV inhibitors, 2" PP Female NPT Bulkhead Fitting.
  • 55 gallon drum - 23.5" Diameter x 34.5" Height
  • 90 Gallon Good impressions rain barrel - 43.5'' H x 28.5'' W x 28.5'' D
This is definitely going to have to be painted if it's going to reside in the yard.






The goal for this project is to have it up and running for the 2019 garden season, the rest of the 2018 season will be for purchases, setup, tweaking and gauging usage.

My absolute hardest thing to overcome with this rain collection system other than cost, is aesthetics, I really have no room for 55 gallon drums all over the place. The "Koi Pond Barrel" is tucked away and is not a problem, but the other is a bit of an eyesore. Since I want to increase the capacity to hopefully 250 gallons, my logic is, buy larger barrels.
I am hoping they appear less intrusive than the four 55 gallon barrels I planned on using. I am also hoping that the capacity is enough to catch most of the rainwater during a heavy rain so the yard doesn't flood out.

One thing I have been struggling with is placement, I really don't have the luxury of setting this up as a gravity feed system, I just have to suck it up and keep the placement where it is now.

To improve on the system, I had to shell out some money, lots of money, but saving money wasn't the reason I decided to do this in the first place.

1) As mentioned earlier, my main focus is to keep the water from draining onto the patio and yard from becoming a swamp with a side benefit of utilizing a free resource that would supplement my Pond and Plants reducing the need for city water, plus I really like the idea of having a more "Eco Friendly" garden, hell, who am I kidding, I just like to tinker!

The initial cost was tough to swallow but I already had some of the supplies listed below and the gutters were going to be installed regardless of harvesting the rain water or not. The larger barrel is going to be a challenge to blend in with the yard.

$130.00 - 90 gallon rain barrel from Hayneedle "ouch!"
$339.00 - for the 165g DOUBLE OUCH!
$55.00 - Transfer pump from Harbor Freight
$25.00 - Outdoor switch, box, conduit and fittings from Home Depot
$8.00 - Super Nozzle Home Depot
$9.48 - Washing Machine Hose Home Depot
$25.00 - 25' Zero Gravity Hose Lowes
$90.00 - Gutter, end caps, hangers and 2x4's Home Depot
$24.00 - Pump hose for gutter and overflow Home Depot
$20.00 - Hose from shop vac. Home Depot
$30.00 - Misc stuff, fittings, tape, hose clamps, silicone etc..
 
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2019 Rain Catchment


August 28th, 2018


OK, Onto the updated rain harvesting/diverting setup. Everything up to this point was experimenting (playing).

  • The new rain barrel came in and I got it in place and hooked it up right away. We have rain in the forecast from Thursday till Monday. First thing to do was add a hose bib to the Bulkhead. I drilled a 3/4" hole in the bulkhead cap, I then enlarged the hole with an exacto blade and did a dry fit. Teflon tape is added to the hose bib and screwed into the bulkhead cap, then the bulkhead cap is teflon taped and screwed into the tank.




  • The transfer pump is mounted to the deck, the inlet being at its lowest point.






  • The pump is always primed as it is below the outlet of the rain barrel, the output of the rain barrel is connected to the input of the transfer pump with a short washing machine hose (female threads both ends), the output of the transfer pump has a zero gravity hose fitted with a Super Nozzle.


  • The transfer pump is hooked into an outdoor switch.



  • The Zero gravity hose is fitted with a Super Nozzle.

  • For the screen filter of the rain barrel, it was by chance I had a large diameter pot that my brother had brought over a few Hosta plants in. I sliced off the top, fitted in a screen and slipped into the top of the barrel. I will be putting a dome shaped coarser screen on top for larger debris.



  • The hose from the gutter was removed and the barrel positioned underneath. I am hoping that I will not need any hose.

  • When I first saw the barrel I panicked, I thought to my self, Laura is going to kill me when she sees this monster. I knew it was big but seeing it in person in my little yard makes it seem a lot bigger. Anyhow Laura came out while I was hooking it up and I could feel my nervousness growing as I built up the courage to ask, "What do you think of the Rain Barrel"? She said, "I like it". I was totally shocked by this... I got a great wife!!


  • The new barrel was bit crooked so I removed the pavers and leveled best I could.


  • Readied my hose bib connection


  • Drilled the hole for the bulkhead, I panicked here.

  • Bulk head installed


  • Threaded in my Hose bib and Y. This crazy dog is closer to me than my own shadow!

  • There, that don't look too bad!
 
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  • Just in time, it rained like crazy this morning. I got 125 gallons of rainwater from this rain. Inspecting the connections, I noticed the hose bib that feeds the transfer pump leaks like a sieve.




I had to redo the hose bib. The open barrel design needs a bit of work also, the water splashes like crazy in moderate to heavy rain.

After a quick stop at Home Depot, I removed the bulkhead fitting cap, It was actually pretty funny removing the Bulkhead fitting cap and trying to get another cap in place as the water was gushing out, TWICE!!
  • Soaking wet, I headed to the workshop and I got out my Rubber punch kit, made a gasket, inserted the hose bib through the bulkhead cap, then popped on the rubber gasket, then the electrical adapter was secured to the hose bib thread and ensured a tight fit. Finish off by taping the threads with Gas line teflon tape.






  • Since water was splashing pretty good from the gutter to the tank, I installed the hose back on the gutter and set it up to have a swirling motion.


My daughter Amanda will be painting something on the Rain Barrel for me

  • Here is a short video that shows what kind of rain I get, yard flooding, patio flooding and my rainwater catchment and diverting testing.
YouTube Video


September 6th


I got good news today, Hayneedle e-mailed me and said that they will honor my discounted price for the Good Impressions 90 Gallon Rain Barrel, but the color I wanted was out of stock so I ordered another color, Khaki. It works out better this way because this barrel will replace the 55 gallon (blue) barrel that feeds the Koi pond that is up against a white wall.

I have seen this Good Impressions 90 Gallon Rain Barrel for as little as $175.00 and as high as $309. I got it for a decent price of $130.00 The original price at Hayneedle was $186.97 then they honored a 10% discount that I received in an e-mail for this purchase, I just called and said I forgot to add the discount code at checkout. Then after about the 4th call and 2 months later of trying to find out what was going on, they offered me another 25% off for my trouble.

  • The rain barrel came in and is huge.

  • I drained and removed the old 55 gallon drum.

  • I made a platform and leveled it where the old barrel was. I made sure to build it up on 4x6 supports so the turtles can go underneath.

  • I removed the pre-installed mesh screen and just sat my homemade funnel/filter in place. I modified the feed from the bar roof positioning it to the new inlet. Bored out the overflow hole and siliconed in a piece of washing machine hose then connected that to the garden hose that overflows behind the hugelkultur bed. I may have to pipe in a larger diameter pipe for the overflow. It's a tight fit for the trash can, the trash can sits out about 4" more than I would like but this barrel gives me an extra 35 gallons, it's worth the trade off.



  • Reinstalled the timer and Koi pond feed line



September 19th

Got a heavy rain yesterday and the barrels are filled, no leaks on the 90 gallon barrel but I have a "weeping" leak on the 165 gallon barrel at the bulkhead fitting, this is an easy fix, I just need to snug it up a bit with some channel locks.

I'm almost ready for the 2019 garden season using my Rain barrels, Wooohooo!!!


  • Testing the output to the back yard pond.

Dropped off my old Rain Barrels to a fellow gardener.


  • Overflow installed.


  • Installed new valve and fittings to make a tighter fit to the tank.


  • Overflow and pond feed are dug in.

  • One side is a feed for the back pond. The other is for manual water fills.
 
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  • Since the overflow hose will trap water as there is a low spot where it is dug in, I had to come up with a way to winterize the line. Working on a blow-out fitting.







  • Fitting is hooked up to the overflow hose with a hose clamp then connected to the air compressor with a quick connect, then the valve is opened slowly until the water is blown out.

  • Installed a gutter on the playhouse that feeds the back pond.



  • My brother wants to remove the black hose and run pvc lines, I said go ahead, knock yourself out. We'll see what happens.






  • Friday after work I installed my winter drain for the roof over the bar on the deck, I bypass the line that feeds the water barrel for the winter. I decided not to put on a valve and just use a piece of flexible tubing as I was afraid of the valve freezing and splitting.





A few more tweaks and my rainwater harvesting/diverting system should be ready for the 2019 season

  • Winter drain Bypass.


I had to make a couple modifications to the tanks, I had to add pre-filters to them, the Koi Pond barrel was in desperate need of a pre-filter because the Toro timer kept getting clogged.


I drilled a few more holes in the filter basin, added a new screen and topped with a furnace filter.




  • For The Koi Pond Barrel, I drilled 2" hole for a net pot, added a screen and covered with a furnace filter. The inlet has a new screen, so far these are working.





  • I also added a larger diameter overflow and a sight window to check overflow is working, yeah I know, shitty silicone work.

 
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Glad to see we're getting some info here! Good, detailed write-ups, SQWIB! I especially like your air fittings for winterization and your pumps and underground lines. Glad your wife liked the big barrel. I'd say even though it's a lot bigger, it looks better than the screaming blue one, and the footprint isn't too much bigger.

I'm in Ohio, so we've got similar rainfall and soil conditions here. Your story sounds a lot like mine: "my yard is the lowest and my neighbors don't care!" I got a ditch witch and dug about 200ft of trench last year to install french drains and get water away from my backyard and detached garage. The system works, but not fast enough during heavy rains. I just got my rain barrel installed, which will help a tiny bit. I can drain it to my underground plumbing which will take the water to the street when I don't need it for veggies.

Here's a link to my drainage issue discussion on garage journal: https://www.garagejournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=416757
 
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Here's my new setup. I got the rain barrel from a local company called Rain Brothers. https://www.rainbrothers.com They seem to know what they're doing, and the kit and instructions were great. I built an elevated platform and got it about as high as I could tie into the vertical portion of my downspout. The platform is about 30"x30", which is huge for a 50gal barrel, but I wanted wiggle room to re-position the barrel and to go bigger in the future. Coincidentally, my neighbors threw out a bunk bed the day I made the platform, and the dimensions of these boards were literally perfect to screw on the sides of the posts to enclose the bottom portion of the structure. Took me forever to deconstruct and re-build the drawers to the right width. Next will be a shelf and a door above the drawers. Any input for cheap and easy way to keep water off the shelf is appreciated. I'll probably slope the shelf towards the garage so water doesn't sit on the shelf.

 

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