According to one University of Rhode Island report, water use in homes increases by 40-50% over the summer, which is mainly because of the amount of water we use to maintain our lawns and gardens. The U.N. says that the six billion people in the world use a little over half of all the fresh water in the world, and water and water conservation are becoming hot button issues in the green community and even in mainstream politics.
While you may not think you can do much about the world’s current water crisis, every little bit really does count. Luckily, there are many simple ways to help with the water crisis, including using a rain barrel at home.
Rain barrels and water tanks are incredibly easy to set up and use, and there are plenty of good reasons to use one.1. You’ll cut back on water usage for your lawn and garden.
Your rain barrel can collect runoff during storms and rain, which you can then use on your lawn and garden, dramatically reducing the amount of water you use from your home water line during the summer months.
2. Rain water is actually better for your plants.
Even if you don’t have the greenest thumb, you can help your plants, shrubs, trees, and grass grow better by watering with collected rain water. Plants love natural rain water that isn’t chlorinated or fluoridated like municipal water normally is, so collected rain water is the best choice for watering your plants.
3. You can help minimize direct runoff.
Direct runoff refers to the dramatic surface runoff of water that floods into sewers during rainy and snowy weather. In industrialized areas, all the concrete, houses, and other impermeable surfaces keep the rain water from soaking into the ground where it lands, as it normally would. When the water is, instead, flooding into the sewage system, the system can overload, resulting in major problems such as flooding downstream and leakages at local sewage treatment plants. By collecting the rain water that lands on your roof, you can do your part to minimize these problems.
4. You’ll help create healthier drinking water and natural waterways.
When rain falls in the middle of an uninhabited forest, even rain that has picked up pollutants can be cleaned out, since most of the water will soak through the soil. However, when rain runs along roofs, streets, and cars, it takes all those pollutants with it, right into the natural waterways and drinking water treatment sites, since the soil that would otherwise soak it up is covered. By collecting rain water, you can prevent some pollution of the waterways around your home.
5. You can actually collect tons of water.
If you live in a relatively dry area, you may think that having a rain barrel is pointless because you’ll never get any water. However, it often takes less than an inch of rain to fill an entire rain barrel, depending on the size of your roof. According to the City of Kearny website, a 1,000 square foot roof with just an inch of rainfall yields over 600 gallons of water!
6. You’ll save money.
If you live in a city, chances are likely that you have to pay for your water usage, which makes rain barrels one great option for conserving water and saving money. With hundreds of gallons of rain water from a single rain fall, you can use that water for your lawn and garden for weeks to keep things looking green – without ever tapping into your city water supply.
As you can see, having a rain barrel is a great option for families who are interested in conservation and being green. While you can’t use water collected in a rain barrel for drinking, washing, or bathing, it will definitely offset your use of water in your lawn and garden. But if you’re looking for some other ways to be environmentally friendly while saving money, here are some great options:
- Keep some filtered water in the fridge, where it will always be cold. This way, you don’t have to run the water for a few minutes while waiting for it to get cold.
- Plug the sink when hand washing dishes, rather than letting the water run. A running faucet uses about a gallon of water per minute.
- Water your lawn during the cool part of the day, so your plants lose less water through evaporation. This will stretch the water in your rain barrel even further.
- Always run full loads of laundry and a full dishwasher, rather than many small loads. If you need a particular item clean for the next day, consider hand washing it in the sink. It’s quick and easy.
- Buy foods that use less packaging. They’re normally healthier for you anyway, and they’re more environmentally friendly just because they don’t use as many resources in their packaging.
- Drive as little as possible, and use gas credit cards that can give you points for environmentally friendly rewards, such as donations for eco-friendly organizations.
- Consider starting a compost pile for your family. It’s fun for the kids, and helps you put your food scraps to good use.
There are so many ways to go green in your everyday life, and having a rain barrel outside your home is just one simple one.
Photo via Arlington County on Flickr