Why I Decided NOT to Buy Rain Barrels

Rain Barrels are good for saving water by recycling rainwater runoff into non-potable water.

With the on-going drought in California, cities and counties have started to offer rebates for purchasing and installing rain barrels at home. The ultimate goal for the city is to reduce water consumption by recycling storm water runoff into non-potable water. My city and county both offer $100 for each rain barrel, a max of 2. That means I can theoretically get 4 nearly free rain barrels. But is the trouble of purchasing, installing, and maintaining a rain barrel worth the amount of water that can be saved?

Unfortunately, my decision after researching the pros and cons of rain barrels was to not buy rain barrels for my single family home. I'm not terribly busy all the time, but I don't want to be held down with additional chores.

Reasons to Buy a Rain Barrel

  1. The tap water we drink comes from Hetch Hetchy and through various pumps, filtration, and treatment processes. Using this clean drinking water to feed your backyard (like grass, shrubs, and trees) is wasteful and a rain barrel will help reduce this waste.
  2. Reduce the amount of water you use (possibly reducing your water bill).

Reason to Not Buy a Rain Barrel

  1. The rain barrel is filled during the rainy season, when most likely your shrubs outside won't require as much water. During the summer months when watering is more crucial, the rain barrel will be empty.
  2. Using the rain barrel water will likely involve manually draining into a water bucket or a separate low pressure hose. This becomes yet another chore.
  3. If your neighborhood freezes in the winter, be sure to empty your rain barrel to prevent cracking.
  4. Rain barrel saves water, but I don't estimate the dollar amount saved will ever offset the cost of the rain barrel.
  5. Rain barrels can also be a source of bugs that lay larvae in the water, especially mosquitos. Though most rain barrel have a mesh to prevent this, these safeguards may deteriorate over time. It is a larger issue if concerns of West Nile is in your neighborhood is a problem.
  6. Most rain barrels for homes are 55 gallons and come with a spigot and overflow valve. In heavy rain, this may fill the rain barrel in 10 minutes. The rest will end over rush pass out of the overflow valve.
  7. Be prepared for installation, that you need to cut an existing downspout to link to the barrel. Additionally, the overflow spout will need to lead back to your existing drainage.
  8. Water collected diverted from rooftops to the rain barrel is not ideal for drinking or food plants. Instead, it should be used to water grass or trees. This is a controversial topic, but be cautious for good health.

Overall, I love the idea of helping the environment, but I find it difficult to justify the amount of time it would take to save 50-200 gallons of water per rainy day (and that's if the water can be used). I hope I can find other approaches to saving water that are more automated or effective to implement in the future.

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