According to the EPA, the average household uses more water outdoors than for showering and washing clothes combined. Lawn and garden watering account for roughly 40% of a typical home's water use.
It's a statistic that reminds us how "green lawns" can be wasteful to both the environment and household budgets -- especially with drought conditions expected and water costs rising in many U.S. municipalities.
To help Mother Nature and your wallet, consider adding a rain barrel to your home.
A rain barrel is a rain-capturing system that collects and stores water runoff from your roof. Often attached to a home's gutter system, a standard rain barrel collects and holds 55 gallons of water which can then be reused to water plants, wash cars, and clean driveways among other uses. Because the water is natural (i.e. not treated with chlorine or lime), it's also ideal for window washing.
Rain barrels can be purchased at many hardware or garden stores, or online via Amazon.com, for example. Or, you can build one yourself.
For a step-by-step guide to building your own rain barrel at home, click here.
To install your rain barrel, first find a location for it, either under a downspout or near one. Make sure to select a stable location because water weighs roughly 8 pounds per gallon. A full rain barrel will weigh over 400 pounds, therefore, so be sure the ground beneath it is solid and flat.
Next, if your rain barrel is hand-built, use PVC piping to reroute falling water into the mouth of the barrel itself, making sure to create a water-tight seal between the piping and the downspout. Or, if you're using a store-bought rain barrel, follow the manufacturers' instructions to "connect" the rain barrel to the downspout.
And, as the last step, be sure that the mouth of the rain barrel is protected from outside debris such as leaves, flowers, and bugs. A formal lid or a covering made of wire mesh makes for a suitable protective cover. Most store-bought rain barrels will be sold with a covering.
That's it. Just remember that basic maintenance will be needed. Water caught by a rain barrel should be used regularly to prevent "standing water" and protective screens should be cleaned regularly.