By Life is a Garden
The word is out – it’s going to be a hot summer gardeners! Rainwater collection is a smart, simple technique to green your home and lessen your environmental footprint, providing significant economic, social, and environmental benefits. Join Life is a Garden’s Water Warrior initiative as we explore ways to utilise every drop of our blue gold.
Where and how can rainwater can be used?
Watering lawns, beds, and containers
Use rainwater in watering cans or attach the rainwater storage tank directly to an irrigation system.
Wildlife, pets, and livestock
You can use harvested rainwater to fill birdbaths and is typically safe for pets or livestock to drink or bath in as well.
Water is essential for proper decomposition of your compost heap.
Rinsing veggies from the garden
A bucket of rainwater beside the veggie patch is a quick way to remove dirt from root veggies and other edibles.
Outdoor ponds and water features
Fill outdoor ponds, pools, and features with collected rainwater.
Drinking and cooking
Installing a filtration system, boiling or distilling the water will make it drinkable.
Connecting a hosepipe to a rainwater barrel or tank outside makes water access easy and eco-friendly.
Using eco-friendly washing detergents with clean harvested water is a big buck saver.
Washing cars and outdoor goodies
Washing outdoor items is an excellent use for untreated water. Wash cars, garden tools, lawnmowers, the driveway, and garden furniture.
Toilets use almost 27% of water in your home. Simply use collected rainwater in a bucket and pour it into the top bowl of the toilet.
How to DIY a rainwater collection system:
Step 1: Gathering barrels
Ideally, you would want at least 2 or 3 large 200 to 300L barrels (like those blue ones we often see on the side of the road costing around R 300 a pop). Having multiple barrels means you will have reserved tanks and can store any overflow as well. If purchasing a secondhand barrel, be sure to check that it didn't contain oil, pesticides, or any other type of toxic substance.
Step 2: Collecting barrel accessories
The following supplies can be purchased at most hardware and home stores. These little accessories will make all the difference in the practicality and convenience of your rainwater set-up. The following items needed are per barrel.
1 hose spigot tap goodies so you can easily access water from the barrel.
1 PVC pipe couplings and 3 PVC bushings to manage water pressure and secure pipe connections.
1 hose adapter
4 metal washers per barrel (12 in total if you are working with 3 barrels)
1 roll of sealing tape
1 tube of silicone caulk
1 s-shaped aluminium downspout elbow to direct water from your downspout to the barrel
1 piece of aluminium window screen to keep leaves, bugs, and other materials out of your water
A water leveler
A few bags of gravel (optional)
4-6 concrete blocks
Step 3: Level the barrel platform
Make sure that the area where you want to place the barrel(s) is level and has good access to the gutter downspout pipe. You may want to set up multiple barrels at multiple downspout areas if you have a wraparound garden or scattered beds/trees around your home. Stack your concrete blocks in the designated area and make sure they too are level.
Top tip: If you want to get fancy, dig out the levelled area and fill it with gravel before placing your concrete blocks. This will help keep moisture away from the house’s foundation and assist with drainage in that area.
Step 4: Adding the spigot and overflow valve
Drill a spigot hole in the side of the barrel about a quarter-way up. Make sure the hole you make is suited to the size spigot you have purchased. Next, squeeze a circle of caulk around the inside and outside of the hole. Attach the spigot tap with the pipe coupling and secure with the sealant tape to prevent leakage. Add washers to both the inside and outside of the barrel where you have prepared the hole.
Now, make an overflow valve by drilling a hole near the top of the barrel. Add some caulk around the holes again, both inside and outside the barrel, then pop on a washer and insert your hose adapter.
Step 5: Assembly and final touches
Connect the s-shaped aluminium downspout elbow to direct water from your downspout to the barrel. Make sure that the end of the elbow will dip well into the barrel so all the water gets collected there. You don't want the water to be pouring into the barrel from above.
If the barrel has a lid, use a hacksaw to cut a hole large enough for the end of the elbow to fit inside. Now cover the area around the hole with the metal screen to prevent nasties from falling into the barrel. And - voila! Bring on the rain, baby!
Top tip: If you are using multiple barrels at the same downspout area, connect the barrels using more hose valves near the top of the container, but below the overflow valve you’ve made. Once the barrel is full, water will flow into the neighbouring container.
Your gorgeous rainwater collection barrels will be your best friend this summer and you can garden on happily during dry spells. Get your family and friends on board too so that we can work together as eco-custodians and make positive, sustainable choices this season. Finally, remember to visit your favourite GCA Garden Centre for water-wise plants and hydrozoning tips.