Updated: Feb 12, 2020
I installed a rain barrel today. I got it from my son for my birthday. It holds 50 gallons! I cut my leg while doing it. It didn't take long and when the job was done, I stood there for a while and waited for rain. The sun was relentless. I went inside and had a beer.
A day or two later it did rain. It was a very light shower so I figured it wouldn't fill up, but I was wrong. It was completely and utterly full of sweet, sweet rainwater. I pushed the barrel several times. It didn't budge. After all, 50 gallons of water weighs over 400 pounds. I didn't want to be seen hugging the big-brown-beauty so I patted it instead; fifty freaking gallons of water - Wow! I bounded up the steps to tell Judy all about it.
"So what are you going to do with it?" She asked.
"What do mean!" I was shocked at her blase reaction. "Water the flowers and... stuff." I stammered (slightly).
"Well, dear, it just rained. They don't need any water."
"So what about the indoor plants?" I was incredulous!
She cocked her head and looked around the room. "Right, that should take a couple of cups or so."
"Well, it isn't going to rain every day so we'll need it sooner or later!" I think I was actually pouting.
"True." She went back to her book.
She wasn't going to rain on my parade. I charged outside to look at the barrel again. I have to admit, it looked pretty much the same. A cool breeze caught my attention. I stared at a darkening sky. It was going to rain again. THEN IT STRUCK ME! Hell, if it rains I won't have anywhere to put the water. I checked the sky again. The forecast had called for more rain later and already the clouds were rolling in. Damn!
For a while I paced around the driveway trying to conjure up a solution. The amount of roof area feeding the barrel was substantial. I could probably fill a dozen barrels in a heavy rainfall. Maybe I could fill a few buckets and put them in the garage. That would leave room for rain in the barrel.
I scoured the house for buckets. I found three. I filled them and placed them in the garage next to the trash bins. "What are you doing?" Judy asked. I explained. "Won't that provide a breeding area for mosquitoes?" I ignored her. I thought for a moment. What else could hold water. THE 50 GALLON RUBBER TRASH BARREL IN THE BASEMENT!
I hauled into the garage dumping its contents into the city's trash pick up cart. I wondered if this thing could hold 400 lbs without splitting. The internet didn't help. The jury was out on that one. Some said yes, some no. I'd fill it half full!
I had only poured one bucket in the barrel when the rain began to fall. It was a gusher! It fell straight down. It was the type of rain every farmer prays for. I got my umbrella and continued the process. I couldn't keep up! The barrel is designed to carry overflow water around to the front and out a weep-hole. It wasn't weeping though, it was vomiting water and drilling a hole in the grass. Shit! It was hopeless.
I gave up and moved into the garage out of the downpour. Maybe I could buy another rain barrel or, better yet, a big storage tank and punch a hole through the wall so the barrel could feed the tank inside the garage. I'd have to raise the barrel up more so it would flow down into the tank. I could hold 1,000 gallons that way. Of course, that would weigh over 8,000 lbs. Would the concrete floor crack? I should probably call a concrete guy and.......
"Bob... BOB!", a voice called for my attention. It was my inner self, you know, the rational one.
"Bob, listen to me! Listen!"
I stood still.
"Sit down Bob." the voice commanded me. I sat on the porch, out of the rain and placed the umbrella next to me.
"You know Bob its just a rain barrel, right?"
With hands clasped and elbows on my knees, I dropped my head and nodded.
"You and one rain barrel can't save the planet. You're going to need help."
My lips moved ever so slightly. "I know."
"So, what do ya say we let it go. Take the 50 gallons and be happy."
For a while I watched the rain. It pounded the earth. The concrete drive sloped to the middle and ran downhill to the street. By the time the water got there it was tumbling and surging. At the street it fanned out into a mouth like that of the Amazon river, finding it's way to the storm sewers. "I guess the Mother Earth knows what to do with it." I thought sadly.
Later that month I got the water bill. I tore it open. In the past 12 months Judy and I had used 30,734 gallons of water. Old people do flush a lot, I guess. The worst months were July and August that showed total usage of 12,326 gallons. That's the cost of flower gardens and green lawns. I was astounded to see that the difference between this July and last July, rain barrel and all, was negligible! Are you kidding me! It wasn't just the rain barrel. We were flushing less, saving the cold shower water to fill the toilet, using the dish washer fewer times, and several other common sense things to conserve water. How can it be negligible?
On the other hand, the water we were saving was measurable. After careful computations I figure it comes out to about 2,000 gallons a year. While we have to do better, that would be an overall savings of 11% of the water (not counting July and August). It wasn't difficult either. At first, it was a bit inconvenient, but then became quite routine. I am convinced we can do much better despite the fact that we are missing out on an ocean of rainfall.
I still experience mild angst in periods of heavy downpour. I guess I should put in a call to Sam Romano later. (Read Sam's blog about Climate Change Anxiety and Depression.) Before I leave you let me tell you three things you should know about rain barrels: Rain barrels are cool. Rain barrels are important. I love my rain barrel.