A rain barrel is placed under a gutter’s downspout next to a house, shed or other outdoor structures to collect rain water from the roof. The water can then be used in various ways including to water a garden. A rain barrel provides two important environmental functions:
- harvesting rain water provides an alternative to utilizing the drinking water supply for gardening and other uses, and
- the overflow from a rain barrel can be directed to a pervious area (an area where rain water can infiltrate into the ground) such as a lawn or garden and help replenish ground water supplies.
By collecting rain water, homeowners help to reduce flooding and pollution in local streams, rivers, and lakes. When rain water runs off of hard surfaces (also called stormwater) like rooftops, roadways, parking lots, and compacted lawns it carries with it pollution to the storm drain system and is then discharged directly to our rivers and lakes. Often in older cities, the storm drain system is combined with the sanitary system. During large rain events the storm water and raw sewage is discharged directly to local waterways. Harvesting rain water in a rain barrel reduces the potential for stormwater to deliver pollution to our local waterways.