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little boy and rain barrel

Rain collection or rain harvesting is a low tech and sustainable way to make the most of water use. Here are 5 easy elements to DIY rain harvesting for you.

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Water conservation is of the utmost importance, especially when heading into the hot summer months. Fortunately, there is a DIY-friendly way you can collect rainwater and use it whenever you need. Whether you have a small flower patch or a large vegetable garden, here are just a few steps to building a rainwater collection system.

Gathering your supplies

Building a rainwater collection system is easy and the supplies are affordable. Most homeowners feed gutter spouts directly into rain barrels, which is the most effective way to collect rainwater. To do this, you’ll need a rain barrel or 32+ gallon plastic trash can, preferably unused.

Likewise, you’ll also need a few pavers or cement blocks for leveling and supporting the rain barrel as well as a downspout water diverter. Diverters attach in the middle of your gutter’s downspout and divert a portion of the water to the attached rain barrel.

For a true DIY build, you can skip the downspout diverter and run the spout directly into the rain barrel. You’ll also want a screw-on spigot with gasket and enough garden hose to reach your plants.

diy rainbarrel

Constructing the foundation

If you want to collect rainwater from a downspout on your home, you’ll need to build the foundation directly under the spout as close to the house as possible. You can also collect rainwater directly from the sky, in which case you can build the foundation anywhere that isn’t covered by an overhang.

Level the ground by removing any uneven grass, roots, or dirt. Build the base of the foundation by using four 12- or 14-inch cement pavers arranged in a square. On top of that, stack cement cinder blocks for height. The goal is to make the foundation tall enough to provide gravity-fed water pressure, especially if your garden is more than a few feet away.

Choosing barrels and attachments

The key to successful water conservation is collecting as much water as possible with each downpour. Standard rain barrels are usually 64 gallons. A 32-gallon trash can will suffice, but you’ll be surprised how fast it fills up. You can build dual-barrels, in which case the supplies above should be doubled.

Whether you choose a trash can or standard rain barrel, you’ll want to install a spigot if one isn’t already installed. The spigot should attach to the side of the container at the very bottom. You can use a paddle drill bit, reciprocating saw, or even a utility blade to cut the hole for the spigot.

Diverting the water

If you’re diverting downspout water, simply run the downspout directly into the barrel. You can do this by cutting the aluminum downspout off at the height of your rain barrel opening. A hacksaw should work well for cutting the downspout. If you’re collecting water from the sky, just make sure the mouth of the barrel is wide enough to collect a sufficient amount of rainwater.

Watering regularly

Collecting water is one thing, but actually distributing the water is another. Whether you attach a hose to the barrel spigot or fill smaller water containers, just make sure you use the water. A full rainwater barrel won’t do your garden any good if it goes unused.

When you’re ready to start collecting water for your garden, follow the DIY steps above and quench your garden’s thirst.

 

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.