Capturing the Rain
This is a description of my experience with rain barrels, which are used to collect water that flows off of the roof of a house from the drainpipe. Rain barrels are economically and environmentally beneficial as they allow for conservation of water and also reduce runoff. The main catch is that the water is not potable and should only be used for non-edible plants since it may contain chemicals and detritus from the roof of the house.
Equipment and Setup
I use a store-bought plastic rain barrel. It has a concave lid with a hole in the center covered by mesh which allows water to flow in when positioned under a drain pipe. Setting up the barrel was quite easy. The only difficult part was sawing the existing drain pipe to line up with the top of the barrel. The barrel has a spigot near the bottom to allow a hose to be hooked up.
I was very surprised at how fast the barrel gets filled during a storm. A 30 minute thunderstorm, completely filled the the barrel (which is around 50 gallons)!
There is very little water pressure in the barrel, so watering through a hose is somewhat difficult. Placing the barrel on an elevated platform will help since it will increase the height difference between the barrel and the hose.
Also, I did not screw the top of the barrel shut. In some cases, it is easier to scoop the water out than to wait for it to drain out through the hose.