Reduce your water bill and help the environment in a weekend
Looking for a great weekend project for the entire family? Making your own rainwater harvesting barrel is an inexpensive, safe and reliable start to get a rainwater harvesting system in place.
SUPPLIES YOU WILL NEED
- 55gal. plastic food barrel
- 3/4” spigot
- 1/2” hose
- 6” diameter plastic flowerpot
- 1/2” hose barb
- 90′ 1/2” hose barb
TOOLS YOU WILL NEED
- tin snips
- 5/8” & 7/8” paddle bit
- jig saw
- measuring tape
- 1/2” & 3/4” tap
MAKING THE INLET
Turn flower pot upside down and set it on top of the barrel. Place the pot equal distance between the two white caps and approximately 1/3 over the seam line. With a Sharpie, trace around the flowerpot.
With the circle you just traced as a guide, draw another circle inside the first. Make it about 1/4” smaller; this will be your pattern.
Cut out the smaller circle with a jig saw or hand saw. To get this started, you can drill the initial hole with a paddle bit.
With snips or heavy-duty scissors, cut a square piece of wire mesh to approximately the size of the bottom of the pot. Fold the corners and place the mesh at the bottom of the flowerpot. Make sure not to leave any open spaces or gaps. Next, fill about 1/3rd of the pot with 3/4” gravel. This “filter” will set in the hole you made in the barrel top.
Water weighs about eight pounds a gallon (A full 55 gallon barrel will weigh over 400 pounds!). It’s important to set the barrel level upon a hard surface. In most cases, dirt will turn into sinking mud when it gets wet. Building a “sandbox” out of treated lumber (reclaimed is preferable and often locally available) is a good way to remedy this. Fill the box with aggregate, gravel, or some other hard material that doesn’t absorb water. Besides keeping the barrel from sinking or tipping, the sandbox raises your water supply.
MAKING THE OUTLET
Draw a mark on the front of the barrel, 4” from the bottom. Do this in the center, on the side where the large, top hole, overlaps the least. This is where the spigot will go. With your marking as a guide, drill a hole with a 7/8” paddle bit.
Tap the hole with a ¾” tap. It is important to only give this-only a few turns, once it catches. Also, try to make your “tap” as straight as possible. It’s best to lay the barrel horizontally, while drilling and tapping.
Screw the spigot into the hole you just tapped. Use a large wrench to tighten. Tighten until the spigot is snug. When you notice the outside o ring begin to “squish”- Stop!
MAKING THE OVERFLOW
With a 5/8” paddle bit, drill a hole about 2” from the top of the barrel and follow with a 1/2” tap. Screw the 1/2” hose barb into the hole. Slip a few feet of hose onto the barb.
CONNECTING YOUR RAIN BARRELS: THE DAISY CHAIN
If you wish to “daisy chain” your barrel, choose a spot approximately the same height as the spigot and drill a hole with a 5/8 paddle bit, followed by a 1/2” tap. Screw in a 1/2” hose barb and connect appropriate size hose length (garden hose and poly tubing for drip irrigation work well). If needed, you can plug this connector with an end cap.
DIRECTING THE DOWNSPOUT TO THE INLET OF THE BARREL
There are many options here. Use your knowledge, intuition, and skills. Try to challenge yourself to use as few resources as possible and re-use materials where you can. Often the simplest system works the best. Like my musician friend says: “play with what you got”
There are many great rainwater harvesting resources on the web. American Rainwater Catchment Association www.arcsa.org and TreePeople TreePeople are good places to start.
You can call us toll free 1(877) 648‑2657 to order the do-it-yourself-kit.
I’m SO making one of these for my mom when she moves into a house (hopefully) this spring. With California and the rest of the Southwest in a 1000-year drought, it makes no sense why ANY homeowner or home-renter wouldn’t have one or three of these in their yard.
Remember victory gardens? We need to get a head-start on some “victory reservoirs” before we start hurting any more than we currently do.