Orange County Branch Newsletter

February 2012


Build Your Own Rain Barrel

By David Eames, P.E.

At a recent ASCE lunch, Eric Strecker provided an overview of the new Stormwater permit requirements for Orange County. The lunch was informative and entertaining as the audience grappled with the reality that preparation of Water Quality Management Plans or WQMPs just got a lot more difficult and a lot more expensive. The new permit offers water harvesting as an acceptable method for the reuse of retained storm runoff. A rain barrel stores rainwater for reuse later and can be used to reduce the cost of irrigation. For the homeowner, constructing a rain barrel is a fun and easy project to do over the weekend. This is a great project to do with kids and can be used to teach a number of sustainable principles. An internet search will yield numerous links for DIY directions and premade rain barrel kits that are available. This is a REALLY simple project that anybody can construct at home.

The materials needed for this project include a rain barrel (I used a rubber trash can with a lid), a plastic water valve, and a borrowed hose. Construction involves cutting a hole in the top of the trash can lid big enough for the rain gutter downspout. If you are worried about mosquitos, a small screen can be attached to cover the hole. Install the plastic value at the bottom of the barrel so that water can be released. There are several types of valves available in the irrigation section of the home improvement stores. Install the valve so that it sandwiches the side of the barrel between two rubber washers fitted over a piece of threaded plastic pipe. (see photo). The existing rain gutter downspout will then need to be modified to direct the water into the top of the barrel. An overflow outlet can be installed but is not necessary.  By placing the barrel up on a couple of bricks, you can provide some additional hydraulic head. This may come in handy later when dispensing the stored rainwater. By using a threaded valve or coupler on the outlet, a standard garden house can be used to direct water to a tree or planter. If this all seems too complicated, there are premade kits available online and at local stores. The photos included here are for a ‘homemade’ rain barrel that can be constructed for around $60. Next time you have a couple hours of sunshine on the weekend, go ahead and set up a rain barrel. It is a great opportunity to teach others about sustainability.

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