Want to Save Money and Help Protect Our Natural Resources?

— Written By Sabrina Woofter

Harvest your rainwater!

Do you really need to use drinking water (also known as “potable” water) to wash your car or water your lawn and garden? In North Carolina, water conservation is important because…

•     Conserving water means more water is available to serve additional water needs, as well as for wildlife and recreation.

•     Conserving water reduces the amount of money you spend each month for household water use.

•     Your community saves the money spent pumping and treating water before and after use, plus conservation can delay expenditures for additional water sources and treatment facilities.

•     Water conservation can positively affect the reliability of your water supplies during periods of high demand and during droughts.

To save on potable water usage AND help reduce stormwater runoff, consider adding a cistern or rain barrel to your yard. These are easily adapted to homes with gutters and downspouts. The water can also be used to replenish decorative ponds.

The use of a rain barrel or cistern to collect water, which is also called “rain water harvesting”, has been used for centuries. In some areas of the world, they are still the primary source of water. The size of the rain barrel or cistern is based on how much roof area is available and the amount of water you wish to collect. A roof will collect 0.62 gallons of water per square foot during a 1-inch rain; therefore, a 100 square foot roof area would yield 62 gallons of water. For this section of North Carolina, nearly 90 percent of the rain events are 1-inch or less. You can measure the length and width of your roof to determine the amount of water that could be collected at your site.

What is the difference between a rain barrel and a cistern? Size! In general, cisterns are larger in volume (1000+ gallons), and can be installed either at-grade or below-grade. Rain barrels have a smaller volume (roughly 30 to 500 gallons) and are installed above-grade. The collected water is naturally soft and contains no minerals or chemicals, which makes it very beneficial for plants. The water can also be used to wash cars, fill birdbaths, and clean garden tools. Do NOT use the water for drinking or cooking. Besides helping to reduce your use of potable water, rain barrels and cisterns help reduce storm water runoff.

When installing a rain barrel, be sure to place it on a firm level surface. A 50-gallon barrel will weigh more than 400 pounds when full. It is generally recommended that the barrel be placed on concrete blocks, and perhaps even attached to a structure with a strap. Individual barrels can be placed at each downspout, or for larger volumes, multiple barrels can be linked together. If the area of roof provides a lot more water than your barrel can hold, make sure that there is an overflow pipe. Be sure to direct the overflow away from foundations and to an area that can accept the water without causing erosion problems. A rain garden is a great destination for the overflow water.

Planters and foliage placed around the rain barrels will help them blend in with the rest of the landscape. Painting the barrels is a great option. It also helps protect the barrel from sunlight. Barrels structurally designed to be buried can be placed in the ground; however, a pump would be needed to access the water, and a high watertable could cause the barrels to pop out of the ground.

– Dr. Diana Rashash, Area Specialized Agent

You can purchase a rain barrel at your Brunswick County Soil & Water Conservation District at 10 Referendum Drive, Bolivia, NC 28422. Call them at 910-253-2830.