Saturday, March 21, 2020

Penn State Extension: Rain Barrels For Water Conservation, Reducing Stormwater

By Diane Oleson, Penn State Master Watershed Steward

Capturing rain water from roofs is one way to save on water usage and reduce stormwater runoff around our homes.
A rain barrel is a container that captures rain water from rooftops. Rain barrels come in different shapes and sizes, but they all do the same thing: save water and decrease stormwater runoff. 
Rain barrels sit beneath a building’s downspout to collect water from the roof during each rain event. The water from the rain barrel can then be used to water plants in your yard.
Rain Barrels have the following benefits:
-- Save drinking water resources. On average, nearly 30% of daily water goes to lawn and garden care. Collecting rainwater decreases the amount of drinking water used to water plants.
-- Decrease water and sewer bills. Capturing rainwater reduces the amount of water purchased from municipal sources.
-- Higher quality water for plants. Rainwater is better for plants, is softer and contains no chlorine.
The rain barrel captures water from the portion of your roof connected to the downspout. Ideally the rain barrel should be located so that the water coming off the roof from the average rain event approximately equals the capacity of the barrel. In Pennsylvania, the average rainfall during a rain event is about 0.36 inches.
To figure out how much water can be collected from your particular roof, use this formula: (Inches of rain per rain event)X(Sq.ft. of Roof)X(0.6 conversion factor)=Gallons to rain barrel per rain event
Therefore, a 65 gallon barrel during a 0.36 inch rain event would drain approximately 300 square feet of roof. If you drain less roof area, there may be unused space in the rain barrel. If you drain more roof area, the barrel may overflow more often.
It is important to remember to do some simple rain barrel maintenance to avoid unwanted problems:
-- Remember to keep your rain barrel drained in the winter months. Freezing and thawing of water can crack the rain barrel components.
-- Clean out the screen and tank periodically to remove any debris. Lead the overflow hose into a garden or plant a rain garden to receive the excess water.
-- Note that the water is not potable. The water collected from the roof contains leaf litter, bacteria from bird droppings, dust, other airborne materials and chemicals from roof material. It is best used on the lawn or flowers.
-- Specifically avoid watering edible plants if you have an old tar and gravel roof, old asbestos shingle roofs, treated wood shingles or shakes, copper roofs and if you have a zinc anti-moss strip. Also, pay attention to the type of gutter you have, since some may be coated with lead-based paints.
Your local county Penn State Extension office or Conservation District may have resources for purchasing or constructing rain barrels.

(Reprinted from the latest Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletterClick Here to sign up for Extension newsletters.

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[Posted: March 21, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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