A rain barrel is a food-grade barrel or drum connected to your home’s gutter system used to collect rainwater. When a rain barrel is installed, three Florida-friendly landscaping principles are implemented: watering efficiently, preventing stormwater runoff and protecting the waterfront.
If you live in a homeowners association community, reach out to check requirements for rain barrel color or location. HOAs are required by law to allow adjustments for rain barrels, but it is your responsibility to check for any necessary approvals.
Most Floridians get their water from an aquifer—a cavernous system of freshwater below the ground. Learn more about projected water demands for Florida at the UF GeoPlan website, www.geoplan.ufl.edu/project-tag/water.
One way to prevent aquifer depletion is to implement conservation measures, such as installing rain barrels. However, many other benefits come with their installation:
- Less aquifer water is used, leaving more water for future generations and flowing freely from our springs.
- Stormwater runoff is reduced, avoiding collected water from going throughout the watershed and picking up pollutants.
- Erosion is prevented around homes and yards.
- Water bills are reduced.
- A resource is created to irrigate plants during periods of drought.
To get a barrel, check with a local distributor for a food-grade drum.
To build the barrel, you need a reciprocating saw, a drill with a 15/16-inch bit, silicone, a 3/4-inch spigot, rain overflow valve, mesh screening, scissors, a bungee cord long enough to fit around the top of the barrel, a corrugated gutter converter, a metal leaf catch, a level and pavers to elevate the barrel.
- Rake and level the area that gets the most rain from your gutter system.
- Cut and remove the gutter, but do not discard it in the event of a pending hurricane. For a hurricane, reinstall the gutter and properly secure or shelter your rain barrel.
- Lay the pavers Jenga style to create a foundation tall enough for a bucket or other container to fit under the spigot.
- Place the barrel on top.
- Install the gutter and leaf catch.
- Secure the screen tightly at the top.
With 50% to 60% of our home water use going to irrigate lawn and landscape, reducing outside water use makes a big difference in overall water savings.
For help with horticultural questions, contact your county extension office. Note that staff may be working outside offices during COVID-19. For extension information, visit ffl.ifas.ufl.edu.