questionsrain barrels--good or evil?


You can sometimes get the big blue barrels from restaurants or food supply places. You have to scout around and be proactive and ask for them though. They're usually free and food safe so it's a good deal. Then you drill your own holes and add hardware (spigots and screens) and you're in for 10 to 15 bucks. They're not the pretty green ones but you could always build a nice enclosure or lattice work screen to keep them hidden if that's a problem.


Check with your state and local laws. Some have restrictions on collecting rain water.

Utah, Colorado, and Washington have rainwater collection restrictions that limit the free use of rainwater.

Some places are very strict. Here's a quote from Denver regarding using tap water only once:

"Additionally, any and all water that comes from tap may only be used once. Denver water customers are not permitted to take their bath or laundry water (commonly referred to as gray water) and dump it on their outdoor plants or garden."


We just leave our watering cans out to fill when it rains. Although I have wanted to pick up a rain barrel for some time, I'm with you that the price is a bit high, and I haven't hit the motivation to track downs free one yet.

I like your previous growing strategy :) we had something similar until my wife bought some strawberry plants.


to piggy back off what zinquan posted.

Besides the big blue barrels (food grade only) there are smaller 15-35 gallon barrels too. There are also very large (i call them milk crates) ones that are easily moved by pallet forks. They hold several hundred gallons.

I would go with colored plastic over clear. I would put a strainer on the top (between the gutter and the container). And I would likely run a leak hose from the barrel to my plants (or make my own) if they are in close proximity. If not I would rig up a hose to the barrel and turn the drain plug/drain cock on and off as needed.

Why pay for water if you don't have to. I have used rain barrels at job sites to collect water off of roofs. I have filled up several 55 gallon drums with water in one downpour.


I converted a plastic trash can that we weren't using because our city changed trash collection. I wasn't expecting my conversion to last, but it has for 3 years now. I think I spent around $15 on supplies and used instructions I found on the internet. It's not pretty but it works and I have a use for a trash barrel that would have sat empty.


Thanks to all. You've gotten me thinking as well. Gonna talk to the guy that manages our cafeteria.

Just a thought on the whole appearance thing. You can get plastic primer paint, which encourages paint to stick to plastic - it normally does not. Then you could get something interesting, and spray paint whatever you wind up using. Some apparently don't require primer (things change quickly).

Terra Cotta:
Multi-Color for Plastic:

Re: Only using water once. This isn't tap water, it's rain water, so regs should not apply. Besides, who the heck makes up these dang laws?!?! Seriously?!?!?! That's like the legislator who tried to pass a law against LoJacking people.


@zuiquan: Here is a project sheet describing exactly what you are talking about. Also includes a video. What this video doesn't describe is how to create an overflow so that once the barrel fills the overflow water will go back into your downspout boot. May not be an issue where you live but depending upon your yearly rainfall rates and size of the roof you are draining, filling a 55 gallon barrel might not be out of the question.


Check your area to see if there are any workshops around -- they have had them around my area for under $50, which includes the barrel itself, along with the rest of the supplies and instruction on how to make it. Just two words of advice on the rain barrel: make sure your mesh is really fine, or you'll risk mosquitoes getting in and laying eggs; and make sure wherever you put it in your yard is completely level (if it's full, it can weigh more than a linebacker, and you don't want that falling on you!)


@jimmyd103: Good stuff. I put a male threaded fitting at the top of mine and hooked it up to a hose for overflow and ran it to my garden. Depending on the square footage of your roof you can easily have an overflow problem in a short amount of time. They fill up fast if you've got a big roof.


@cengland0: Wow, that's bizarre. AFAIK, here in the desert where we have fresh water shortages, everyone is encouraged to make as much use of their water as possible. We are so short of water we had a PSA running for a while asking people not to fill their water glass with more than they plan to drink. Restaurants don't give you water unless you ask. I can't imagine filling a 55 gallon drum in a single rainstorm. I set out a couple of containers last week to catch water for my plants from the series of rainstorms that passed through, and there wasn't even an inch in the buckets after three days of sporadic rain. And that's the first rain we've had in months. We do have my house's single downspout feeding directly into a flower bed and I have other plants that are the recipients of the water draining from the roof slope, but I still have to water everything a couple of times a week as the water they get from the sky is minimal.


Here is a tutorial on how to make your own. If you don't want to use trash cans, you can probably do like a few people have suggested here and find some food grade barrels locally.

If you really wanted to make a project out of it, you could also look into a rain garden.


@moondrake: The idea is to put it under a gutter downspout, so that a large portion of your roof is acting as the collection surface. Much different than just setting a barrel out in the rain.

I don't use them - We have to do a lot of watering, and it would only barely dent the consumption to use a rain barrel. Plus I like watering from a hose with water under pressure, not from a watering can.


@cengland0: That's one area where Texas has done the right thing. Rainwater harvesting regulation is now forbidden and gray water(bath/shower water) reuse is encouraged.


@havocsback: That's mainly because Utah and Colorado are at the top of the river system while Texas is at the bottom. Due to agreements between the various states (some of them quite old) some areas are not supposed to collect and reuse water because that prevents it from making it down to the lower states.


Funny, just got an email that the local trash/recycling dept. is offering these for a limited time at $60 (half-price). Maybe check with your local municipality to see if anything like that is available or in the works?

@tsfisch: apparently they can be used with a hose.


I was looking for one last week, I kind of have this "prepper" thing going on because I am watching way too much TV.
I found on on Craig List for $35, and noticed that EBay had some good deals also.
Problem with EBay was the shipping although you may be able to find local pick-up.