Water Collecting and Recycling: Putting a Rain Barrel on Your Property

Monday, June 22, 2015

conserve-water-environmental-consienceCanada is a nation fortunate enough to have an abundant water supply. Most Canadians can turn on their taps and have a fresh supply of water at their disposal. However, a growing number of Canadian cities are recognizing the importance of conserving water and reducing water waste. A rain barrel is an affordable option to catch and use rainwater with minimal cost and environmental impact.

What are rain barrels?

A rain barrel is a large cistern made of durable material that is used to catch rain water from a rooftop or downspout. Rain barrels have been used for centuries as a way of collecting and storing rainwater, and are now making a comeback in urban areas.

The most common type of rainwater harvesting in city environments is a conveyance system, where water that collects on a roof flows through downspouts and into a rain barrel. Water is stored for a later time and can be used to water the lawn, or even inside to wash dishes.


What are the advantages of using a rain barrel?

  • Aside from the initial cost of the barrel, the costs of maintaining a rain barrel are almost nothing. If you have a large backyard, or are in an area of scarce water supply, using the water that nature provides to water your yard saves you money in the long run.
  • Rain barrels reduce strain on a city’s stormwater system by diverting water in a downspout from the storm drain to the barrel.
  • Your lawn and the plants in your yard actually prefer rainwater to tap water. Rainwater is free of softeners and chemicals, which is beneficial to plant life.
  • Rain barrels are simple to install and use, require minimum upkeep, and benefit the environment.
  • You can have as many rain barrels as you want, depending on your household needs.

What do rain barrels cost?

Depending on the material that the barrel is made of, and how complex a system you install, rain barrels can cost anywhere from fifty dollars to hundreds of dollars.

Since water conservation is a growing movement in Canada, many cities offer low-cost promotions or even free rain barrels for residential use.

Furthermore, there are many organizations that are willing to come to your home to provide free training on how to install rain barrels, and to give tips on how to maintain your rain barrel system.

Rain barrel rules in your municipality

Before you collect rainwater, make sure you know how you are allowed to use it. For example, in many parts of the world, residents are allowed to use collected rainwater for outdoor as well as indoor use, such as cooking, showering, and doing laundry. This is not always the case. In Calgary, collected rainwater cannot be used for drinking or to water crops.

There are also specific guidelines on the set up of a rain barrel. When in doubt, contact your local government, or visit your city’s website to see what guidelines are in place.

How much water can be saved?

Depending on where you live, how big your roof is, how much rain you get in a year, and how much water you actually use, rain barrels can collect a lot of water. For example, a rainfall of five centimetres in a month equals 4,000 litres of water provided by Mother Nature. That’s a lot of water that can be harvested. Typical rain barrels are 170 litres—one rainstorm is all it would take to fill it up.

You can add multiple rain barrels on your property depending on your water needs.

Ways to use rainwater

Depending on any restrictions your municipality has about collecting rainwater, water can technically be used for almost anything. Use it to:

  • Water your lawn and your plants
  • Store in case of a drought
  • Flush toilets, wash dishes and shower with it at the cabin
  • Warm the water and bathe a pet
  • You can even wash your car with rainwater provided you don’t use soap or cleaning chemicals. For more information on regulations regarding washing your car in Calgary, click here.

Installing a rain barrel on your property is a sensible investment with almost instant returns. Over time, it can drastically reduce the price of your water bill and can make your yard and garden healthy. Consider installing a rain barrel on your property and start saving money—and the environment!