Humans have been harvesting rainwater for as long as history has been recorded. Records show that rainwater cisterns were in use in ancient societies across the globe dating back to at least 3,000 years ago.
China, Egypt, and Rome all had sophisticated collection systems for storing water, and the Romans actually used a system of evaporating stored water as a cooling mechanism!
Even though our modern society uses centralized supply systems, harvesting rainwater is a great way to prevent storm water runoff and the subsequent pollution of streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean.
Although complex catchment systems exist, reducing storm water runoff can be as simple as placing a barrel under a downspout. Although the water is not suitable for drinking, you can use it for landscaping purposes, which saves potable tap water from being used on plants and flowers.
So consider putting a rain barrel or two in your yard – from an environmental standpoint, it makes all the sense in the world!
Rain Barrel Construction Tips
Here are some tips on setting up your rain barrel:
Place your rain barrels under the downspouts of your house
The average size of a rain barrel is 55 gallons; remember, water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon, so a full barrel will weigh over 400 pounds – be sure to place it on a level, sturdy surface!
Place a window screen over the top of the barrel so that mosquitoes do not breed in the standing water
If you’d like to learn more about using rain barrels, the Board of Water Supply and Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden hold workshops on rain barrel construction, installation and maintenance
To learn more about rain barrels, visit the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources website on rainwater catchment systems.