What is a rain barrel and why does my school need one?
Collecting rainwater for future use is a practice that dates back thousands of years. There are records of rainwater being collected in simple clay pots in Thailand 2,000 years ago. Today, even though we have running water, there are many reasons why people are starting to harvest rainwater:
- Protect our natural resources: In many parts of the world, like the US, people believe that water is an infinite resource. Unfortunately, communities are drawing more water out of the underground aquifers than they naturally receive to replenish it.
- Save money: According to www.rainbarrelguide.com, for every inch of rain that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 square feet, you can expect to collect approximately 600 gallons of rainwater. That is a lot of free water!
- Better for your garden: The hard water from your municipal water systems often contain chemicals that can create an imbalance in your garden soil. The water that flows from your roof into the rain barrel often picks up very few contaminants. You can use this water to keep your soil healthy during a drought.
Where can I get a rain barrel?
Rain barrels are sold at many hardware or gardening stores. The prices range from $60-$200. They are also very easy to make yourself and provide a fun opportunity for class bonding.
This plan from The DIY Network includes pictures and a video to help you build your own rain barrel for a low cost. You will need a 55 gallon drum; I have found that you can get one of these drums for a very low cost from Craigslist, local food distributors/bottlers, pickle/olive distributors, or a local car wash. If you are willing to put some time into calling around, it will be worth it.
If you are trying to avoid using plastic to build your rain barrel, you can use a wooden wine or whiskey barrel. These barrels are a little bit harder to find and often cost more money, but they are quite durable. You can find plans for a wooden rain barrel here.
Another plastic free option is this rain barrel, made out of a steel drum like the one I used for my rotating compost bin. These drums can be expensive, but if you spend some time doing research, I am sure you will come across one. This design is very durable, but requires some heavy-duty tools.
I hope that after reading this post the question is not “Does my school need a rain barrel?” but, “How many rain barrels can my school build?” Finally, have fun with your rain barrel design! This is a wonderful opportunity for your school community to be involved with an environmental project and learn some engineering skills. Many schools allow their students to decorate their rain barrels after they have been built as a bonding experience.