5 reasons to add a rain barrel to your landscaping

A rain barrel is a small, above-ground tank that collects and stores rainwater for later use. There are a few types, but the most common barrels collect rainwater from your roof. Adding one or two rain barrels to your home can be good for your plants, the planet and your wallet. It’s an inexpensive, practical habit — especially in dry Western states where droughts are more common.

Here are five reasons to put a rain barrel in your yard.

1. Rainwater has many uses.

Natural rainwater is loaded with oxygen and nutrients, making it great for watering plants. Rainwater collected from roofs — except for copper roofs and those treated to prevent moss and algae growth — is free from chlorine, ammonia and other chemicals contained in tap water that can accumulate in the soil over time. Rainwater dilutes the impact of these chemicals, making plants healthier and more drought-tolerant. Rainwater also contains good bacteria and microorganisms that the soil needs to keep plants healthy.

Rainwater has many uses aside from watering plants. It doesn’t have the salt and chemicals found in tap water, making it perfect for washing your car or filling a bird bath (birds love fresh rainwater). The rain barrel itself can double as a trellis, block an unsightly view or even provide passive solar heat if you install a system and find the right size, color and location on your lawn.

2. It saves water and money.

Water-intensive landscapes and green lawns cost a lot of money. In dry climates and during the summer, homeowners can use as much as two to four times more water than usual, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A rain barrel’s “water catch” can collect 1,300 gallons of water during the growing season. And irrigating with rainwater could reduce your water bill by 30 percent or more.

One inch of rainfall on a 1,000-square-foot roof yields over 600 gallons of water. Even in dry areas, less than an inch of rain can fill a rain barrel. Cutting back on water use for your lawn and garden not only reduces your water footprint, but it can also reduce your water bill.

3. Water restrictions don’t apply.

If you collect rainwater, you’ll be able to keep watering and nourishing your garden all summer long, even when water advisories are put in place to limit residential water usage.

4. It helps protect your home from water damage.

Rainwater from a big storm can flood your basement or create a build-up of moisture next to your foundation, leading to damp patches and mold. Rain barrels help prevent these potentially dangerous problems by protecting the already-saturated ground from excess water.

5. It’s helpful to your local water treatment facility.

Urban areas covered with concrete, tarmac and buildings create runoff during heavy storms, which can carry pollutants into waterways. Collecting rainwater can reduce the amount of runoff and prevent some of that pollution from reaching waterways near you.

Additionally, runoff from rainy and snowy weather can cause flooding downstream and overflow at sewage treatment plants. Collecting the rainwater that lands on your roof might seem like a small effort, but it helps minimize flooding and leaks further downstream. If you don’t need a full rain barrel to care for your lawn and garden or other activities, you can slowly release excess in between storms. This allows the water to soak into the ground instead of running into storm sewers.

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