By Amanda Sears
Installing a rain barrel has lots of benefits for you and the environment! A rain barrel is a large container connected to the end of a downspout used to collect rainwater and melted snow and ice running off a rooftop. A rain barrel generally consists of a large barrel or drum, spigot, overflow pipe and an inlet with a screen. Rain barrels can be purchased ready-made or constructed relatively inexpensively. When constructing a rain barrel with a used barrel or drum, be sure that the barrel or drum was used to store materials that are safe for humans, plants and animals. Check with local food distributors for used barrels. Rain barrels can also be constructed from heavy duty trash cans purchased from local department or hardware supply stores.
Rain barrels reduce stormwater runoff, which is defined as rain or melted snow and ice that flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces, such as rooftops, sidewalks, roadways and parking lots, inhibit stormwater runoff from seeping into the ground. As stormwater flows across these paved surfaces it picks up pollutants such as cigarette butts, candy wrappers, oil, automotive fluids, pet waste, soaps used from washing vehicles and any other substance that has been deposited on the ground. This polluted runoff then enters streams, rivers and lakes by way of storm drains resulting in poor water quality conditions. Rain barrels decrease stormwater runoff by capturing stormwater that runs off rooftops. This reduces the amount of polluted stormwater runoff that enters local water bodies. These local streams, rivers and lakes potentially serve as habitat for wildlife, local drinking water sources and recreation such as swimming, boating, and fishing.
In addition to reducing stormwater runoff, rain barrels also decrease the amount of municipal water used, thereby decreasing your water bill. The rainwater collected in a rain barrel can be used for watering gardens, flowers or lawns. This reduces the amount of water used from public water suppliers, thus not only decreasing your water bill, but also reducing the amount of chemicals and energy used to treat water. Please note water from rain barrels should be used for outdoor purposes only and should not be used for human or animal consumption.
The Madison County Cooperative Extension Office will be offering a class on rain barrels on Tuesday, Feb. 4 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This class will cover the basics of putting together and maintaining a rain barrel. Presenters will construct a rain barrel during the class which will be given away as a door prize. Please call 859-623-4072, to register for this class.
Educational programs of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.