City of Alexandria, VA
Rain Barrels can be placed under roof downspouts to collect rainwater that runs off your roof. The collected water can be used for any number of things around your house. Its a great way we can do something for the environment by conserving water, protecting local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay; while saving money at the same time.
Provide your plants with water they will love!
Save money and water!
Protect the Chesapeake Bay!
The City of Alexandria is dedicated to protect and enhance the natural environment. One of the ways is by providing outreach and education to citizens for practical solutions like installing rain barrels at home. The City provides "Build Your Own Rain Barrel Workshops" as part of the Northern Virginia Rain Barrel Program partners, which includes: Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Arlington County, the City of Falls Church, Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Fairfax County, Fairfax County Public Schools, the Reston Association, and Fairfax County Park Authority.
The barrels we use are thick, sturdy, plastic barrels that were once used for pickling. The Partners purchase the barrels and have "cleaning events" with volunteer groups to wash the barrels. So while there may be some scuffs here and there on the barrels, its because they are being re-purposed and kept out of the landfill. Another plus for the environment! Please visit Northern Virginia Rain Barrel Registration or sign up for "Environmental News" eNews to get the lowdown on the next rain barrel workshop.
Want to make one at home? Check out this podcast and find out how to make and install one yourself!!
What do the rain barrels look like and where do you get them?
How large are the rain barrels?
Will I get mosquitoes in my rain barrel?
Is the water in the rain barrel safe to use in my vegetable garden?
There are two main drivers to look at first when considering rain barrels.
The first thing you want to consider is whether or not your roof downspouts are connected to the storm drain system. Currently, City ordinance does not allow for disconnection of the downspouts if they were connected as part of the development. If however the downspouts are not connected (meaining they discharge onsite as part of overland flow), then they may be good candidates for rain barrels.
The rain barrels can be placed under the downspout by first cutting the downspou. Keep the bottom "elbow" and reconnect to the cut end. The new end should discharge into the top of the barrel and fill up during a rain event. If the barrel gets full, it should overflow through a hose connected at the top. The overflow should be situated so that water is directed away from the foundation. Or a diverter can be placed on the downspout so that when the barrel filled, the water would then be diverted back into the downspout and discharge at the "normal" location.
The other thing is the responsibility of emptying the rain barrels after a storm event so that they are ready to receive the next event. Either way, it's good to empty the barrel about every week (5-7 days). There are a couple approaches: The rain barrel has a spigot (aka hose bib) attached to the bottom. A soaker hose can be attached to this and the spigot opened to various degrees to allow slow infiltration into landscape areas for a less hands-on approach. You can also leave the spigot closed and fill a watering can. Installation height above ground level will determine the water pressure at the spigot (and hose). A pump (either hand or electrical - possibly solar) can be installed to increase the pressure and allow you to use the hose in a more traditional manner.
Here are some resources to assist you to install and maintain your rain barrel - whether you went to a Build Your Own Rain Barrel workshop or bought one from a retailer. The links are provided not as an exhaustive list or a show of preference, but just to get help you get going with other accessories, finding installation help, or to paint your rain barrel.