Maintain Your Rain Barrel System
There's more to a rain barrel system than building it. We've collected some tips and resources here to help you get the most of your rain barrel system.
- Locating Your System
- Prevent Mosquitos
- Companion Barrels
- Be Creative
- Maintain the System
- More Complex Systems
- Tax Incentives
- It’s important to be considerate of those around you when determining the best place to position your rain collection unit. It is preferable to place the collection unit in the back of your house and preferably screened. Screening can be done using shrubs and other plants or with a structure, such as an enclosure. If located on the side or front of your home, the collection must be screened.
- Be sure to elevate the rain barrel to maximize gravity flow. A height of 2.5 feet is sufficient.
- Place the collection unit near plants and near or at the end of downspouts.
- Build concave planted areas to allow rainwater to percolate slowly into the soil.
All rainwater collection systems must have a cover.
If you are using the barrel method and don’t have a top, be sure to cover the top of the collection unit with a fine mesh screen; nylon works best. This material is sold at most hardware stores. Be sure to cover the entire top and secure with a band of some type. You may also add the mesh screen to the overflow pipe.
Additionally, very small pieces of mosquito dunk may be used in the barrel, but be sure the pieces are very small to not clog the spigot. You only need a small amount in a 55-gallon barrel (or smaller).
If you would like to collect more than 55 gallons of rainwater, you can connect additional 55-gallon plastic containers together. This is called “companion barrels.”
Companion barrels are connected together, usually side-by-side, with a rubber hose (generally where the overflow would be located).
Your 55-gallon rainwater harvesting unit (and any other sized plastic collection unit) can be decorated. There are several options for applying paint to a barrel. It is recommended to look for paint that is designed specifically to adhere to plastic.
There are many color choices and some texture choices as well. These paints normally are spray on and can be found at most hardware stores. Latex paints can be applied, but may require additional steps to properly adhere to plastic.
Developing a water harvesting system is actually an ongoing process to be improved and expanded over time. Inspect your water harvesting system before each rainy season (and, ideally, after every rainfall) to keep the system operation optimally. Use this maintenance checklist to keep your system in top condition:
- Keep debris out of holding areas.
- Control and prevent erosion; block erosion trails.
- Clean and repair and cracks or leaks.
- Keep debris out of gutters and downspouts.
- Clean and maintain any filters, especially those on drip irrigation systems.
Once your system is operating, monitor landscape water use to find out the amount of water saved.
Complex rainwater harvesting systems cost more to build but yield greater water savings than systems with smaller storage. Consider the following factors when deciding whether to invest in a complex water harvesting system:
- Availability of other water supplies for irrigation.
- Need for professional assistance to design and construct a complex system.
- Cost of storage, including the storage container, excavation, pumps, wiring, and ongoing maintenance.
- Long investment payback period (sometime several years).
There are rainwater harvesting cistern installers located throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth region. If you are interested in capturing more rainwater and would like to install or have installed a large cistern, permits are required. Contact Irving’s Inspection Department for more information at (972) 721-2371.