Have a Lawn Without a Guilty Conscience

Rain barrel made by the Athens-Clarke County Stormwater DivisionI’ve been staring at my brown backyard this past week and longing for springtime. But with spring comes the repercussions of last year’s decision to install sod so my toddler had someplace nice to run around. I am one of those people who wants to balance environmentalism with some creature comforts. Is this possible? The lawn will be my first test. First, how can I water it adequately without using up so much water?

It’s raining right now and the water from my roof is over-saturating three corners of my house and pouring down the driveway on the fourth. The water running down the driveway is picking up pollutants on its way to a creek. I could be storing some of this water for the spring when my lawn is thirsty and so is the rest of Georgia. People have been collecting rainwater for ages. The modern rain barrel is simply a large barrel used to collect rain water from the downspouts of your house. An older term, cistern, dates back to the 1300s (Oxford English Dictionary).

Rain barrels can be bought pre-made. A simple Google search returns many companies selling the item, apparently all with hefty price tags. But according to the Savannah, Georgia Water and Sewer Bureau, you can buy the supplies to build one for about $50. Both the Savannah Water and Sewer Bureau and the Athens-Clarke County Stormwater Division both provide instructions online for making your own rain barrel. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the instructional videos on YouTube . Workshops may also be available in your area. Here are a couple coming up this spring.

  • The University of Georgia Cherokee County Extension Office is hosting the Harvesting Rainwater and Constructing a Rain Barrel Workshop at the Cherokee Senior Services Center on Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 10am. Click here for more information provided by the Clean Water Campaign.
  • The Athens-Clarke County Stormwater Division will begin holding rain barrel workshops in April. Keep checking their site for the schedule. The division will also hold workshops in neighborhoods, so Athens residents can gather up their neighbors and call the division to schedule an appointment.

After thinking about rain barrels this past week and researching how to make them, I’ve started to wonder exactly how I can use the rain barrel to help water my lawn. The idea is great, but I need to know if I can collect enough water for my lawn and how to get the water from the barrel to the grass. Doesn’t sound like much of an issue? Wait until next week when I’ll run the numbers and help you determine 1) if you are ready to make or buy a rain barrel and 2) how much the collected rain can help with your watering needs.

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224 Responses to “Have a Lawn Without a Guilty Conscience”

  1. Rain harvesters need to beware. Colorado and some other states have laws making storing rain water illegal. Hopefully this will change soon.

  2. Very informative. Thanks. I need to look into this in Michigan. Jeff.

  3. You will be amazed at the number of uses you will come up with for rain water. here are some of the less obvious examples:

    - Washing cars
    - Cleaning patio furnature
    - Putting out a fire pit
    - Cleaning Garage / Driveway floors

    One piece of advice. If possible place your rain barrels at the highest point in your yard. This will increase the amount of area you can water.

  4. Any thoughts on whether it makes a difference to use one of the rain barrel stands to put your barrel up higher?

  5. Elevating the rain barrel will give you some water pressure, which is helpful if you want to hook the rain barrel up to a house and water a lot of plants or your lawn. But the water pressure will not be like that from the water in your house. Also, try elevating the rain barrel with cinder blocks, bricks, or the like instead of buying a stand. Just make sure whatever you use is sturdy.

  6. Great you are right, We sell barrel and you can DIY for under $50 or $75 if you go crazy and buy a diverter for the gutter. I would just like to tell everyone to make sure you are getting a food grade barrel that you know for sure was used for food. Most of the barrels out there are all food grade and than they are used for what ever and many people will sell them as food grade and they had motor oil in them etc. I tell everyone to ask if they can prove what was in their barrel before you buy one.
    Hope these will help any one looking for a rain barrel
    Chris D. Maenza Sr.

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