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Urban Homesteading: Water Catchment Systems - Using Rainbarrels to Recycle Rainwater

written by: J.C. Wilkinson•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 3/8/2011

An average home uses 30 percent of its water for outdoor purposes. Using rainbarrels to recycle rainwater can save more than the environment, it can save you money as well.

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    Free Water for Your Garden

    To grow vegetables, you need water. Paying for municipal water is cost prohibitive. However, did you know that just 1/4 inch of rainfall, properly diverted from a 1000 sq. foot roof into a water catchment system, can fill three 50 gallon rain barrels? That's right, just that little rainfall off of a normal sized roof of an urban home will provide you with 150 gallons of free water that is perfect for watering your garden. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

    More and more people are finding out that using rain barrels for collecting the water that nature so lovingly provides us is a very good way not only to conserve our natural resources and reduce the burden on our dwindling groundwater supplies, but to also ease the strain on their budgets. Some people are even setting up potable water catchment systems, where the rainwater can be filtered and pumped into the house for cooking and bathing. In states with rainy seasons, this can really reduce your average monthly water bill.

    Some states, such as California and Arizona, have incentive programs in place to encourage people to use water catchment systems.

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    What You Will Need and Where To Get It

    You will need a gutter and downspout system to fill the rain barrels. If you don't have gutters, this might be the most expensive part of creating a water catchment system, but it will pay for itself many times over very quickly. Gutters are not difficult to install, and you don't have to gutter the entire roof right away.

    Once you have your gutters and downspouts, you're going to need your rain barrels. Fortunately, they are very inexpensive to make, or you can even find people on sites like Craigslist in your area that sell rain barrels for as little as $20, already assembled. Of course, you can buy some very pretty and fancy rainbarrels for $200 to up to $1000 dollars. If you live in a deed restricted community, you may have to spend more so as to meet their codes. The only problem with this is that, while it is environmentally friendly, it takes a long time to pay for itself.

    If you live near a food processing plant, you are in luck, because the most desirable barrels have had food grade material in them, suitable for use for even potable water. You can clean barrels that have held some chemicals, such as detergents that aren't environmentally harmful, but only use these for watering, not drinking water. Many of these facilities sell the barrels as cheaply as $5 apiece.

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    How Do Rain Barrels Work? How Do I Build One?

    Rain barrels work on a gravity pressure system. The barrels are filled from the top, and the outflow is near the bottom. The pressure of the water itself if what pushes the water out into the hose. Of course, this isn't going to be as much water pressure as you'd get from your regular water spigot, so you should really use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to get the best results. Remember that the further your water has to travel, the more pressure you will need, so it may be necessary to raise the barrel off the ground if your garden is not close to your barrels.

    Simple instructions for building a rain barrel system can be found here.

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    Save Water, Save The Planet

    Whatever kind of system you come up with that works for you, be it one barrel just to water a few veggies, or a large tank system for both watering and potable water, recycling rainwater is always a good thing.

Urban Homesteading in Florida and Beyond

Want to be more self-sufficient? Urban homesteading is the act of taking any city space you have, be it an apartment balcony or a small city lot, and turning it green. Whether you grow a few vegetables or move completely off the grid, it's an adventure you won't regret!
  1. The Urban Homesteading Phenomenon: Self-Sufficiency on a City Lot.
  2. Urban Gardening: Planning Your Vegetable and Herb Garden
  3. Urban Homesteading: Alternative Energy - Affordable Solar Power
  4. Urban Homesteading: Water Catchment Systems - Using Rainbarrels to Recycle Rainwater
  5. Urban Homesteading: Making Money From Your Urban Homestead