Inexpensive rain barrels

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

bluebarrel Rain water harvesting is one of the great methods of getting good water for the garden free. Not that tap costs all that much in Britain but rainwater is far more superior to watering especially food crops than is tap water.

However, rainwater butts, aka rainwater barrels or rain barrels, can be rather expensive and in the UK can cost anywhere from £30 upwards to £150 or so for ordinary domestics rain barrels.

There are ways, however, of getting such barrels free (excluding the cost of the retrofit kit, that is to say the diverter) and here are a few ideas:

Many municipalities and water utilities these days are encouraging water saving devices like rain barrels, and as a result, often give them away for free, in some countries and counties – though not where I live - unfortunately. They probably have a limited supply or may only offer them on certain days or at specific events. They may refer you to the water utility company.

I would like to add here that in some states of the United States, however, it is, in actual fact, a felony to divert rainwater from the roof to a rain barrel and I thus would like to suggest that you consult your zoning laws and local and state laws before installing rainwater harvesting systems, however small.

If your municipality has no advice, then check out non-profit environmental organizations. They may have giveaways or know of places where you can get free or inexpensive rain barrels. Though again this is something for the US rather than the UK for so far I have not come across any of them over here.

Another great way of creating rain barrels is to get hold of the 55 gallon plastic barrels that often can be found at catering establishments, farm stores and other locations and which, in the main, are sent to the waste management facilities.

If the farm stores sell stuff such as grain and such from such barrels they often are happy to get rid off them to you rather than to have them picked up by the waste companies. The less they have to have them take the less they have to pay.

Farms too often end up with a surplus of such barrels in which fertilizers were delivered and pesticides and such. I suggest you only use, if you can get them of a farmer, those barrels that had fertilizers in them. That washes out better and any traces will boost your plants.

The blue 55 gallon plastic drum is one of the best rain barrels to be had, I think, and in some places they are quite easy to obtain which in others they are not.

However, by looking around a bit, and using ingenuity, it should be possible to obtain enough containers of this kind to make a system of rain barrels for a real useful rainwater harvesting operation.

© 2011