Brad Ross: Rain barrels are old-school


The older I get, it seems some of the “old ways” are still relevant and may be better than new-fangled technology.

Fifty years ago, cover crops were commonly used to prevent soil erosion and improve the quality of the soil. Today’s farmers are realizing the benefits of this old-time conservation practice and its popularity is catching on again.

The same can be said for rain barrels. This old-time practice of collecting roof water in a barrel to water the garden is once again being used. This “new era” practice has benefits that previously were not recognized.

When my grandfather used his old wood-staved whisky barrel to collect rainwater off his barn roof, his sole purpose was to water the garden without pumping it from his well. Today we recognize many more benefits. Rainwater is better than tap water for your plants. It is highly oxygenated and free of salts, fluoride compounds and other chemicals that may be harmful to plants.

We don’t have a shortage of water this spring but, later this summer, there may be dry conditions that warrant plant watering. Collecting roof runoff is an economical way of providing clean water for those plants.

Utilizing rain barrels also reduces the potential for pollutants from entering our waterways. Roof water forcefully runs over the land, picking up sediment, fertilizer and other contaminants. Rainwater collected and stored in a rain barrel also lowers expensive and energy-intensive sewage treatments.

Obviously one or two rain barrels on your property won’t make a huge impact on water quality; however, if all homes have at least one rain barrel, it could drastically cut the cost of water and wastewater treatments in our community.

Because rainwater doesn’t have the salt and other chemicals found in tap water, it is safer to use to wash your car and pets. I’m sure my dog, Brew, would love the softness of his coat following a rainwater bath … if only it would keep him from shedding!

If you have water problems around the foundation of your home, garage or barn, adding a rain barrel can help keep excess runoff water from causing further damage to your foundation. One of the best benefits of a rain barrel is the cost savings on your water bill.

Up to 40 percent of residential water use during the summer months is used for garden and lawn watering. Rainwater collected in rain barrels is free! Finally, you will be the envy of your neighborhood for having an attractive, environmentally friendly rain barrel attached to your downspout (OK – so not many will really notice, but it’ll make you feel better knowing you are helping improve water quality).

If you are thinking of adding a rain barrel to your home, the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District is hosting a rain barrel workshop on May 26 at 7 p.m. at the Powell municipal building, 47 Hall St. The cost of the workshop is $50 and includes a 50-gallon black plastic rain barrel. This is a 55 percent discounted price of purchasing the rain barrel separately – and you get the training for free. You must register for the workshop to get this great price, however. The registration deadline is Friday, May 20.

If you are interested and want to register, you can stop in our office at 557-A Sunbury Road, Delaware, or go on our website — — and register. Email [email protected] if you have questions. Come see us. We are here to help you help the land.

Brad Ross

Contributing columnist

Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at [email protected].

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