Harvesting Rainwater

By BJ Jarvis
County Extension Director & Horticulture Agent for
Pasco County Cooperative Extension Service

Mother Nature periodically gives us water during the dry season (October through May) and there is an easy way to take advantage of it. Pasco residents can “harvest” rainwater by simply placing a rain barrel under a gutter or the valley of the roof line. Rain barrels are an old-fashioned way to capture and store water coming off the roof with water free of chlorine and fluoride, which is better for plants. Harvested rainwater is a source of irrigation water during periods of drought, reducing demand on the municipal water system, especially during the dry season months, and can reduce stormwater run-off.

Pasco County regularly offers Rainbarrel Workshops where there is a discussion about water conservation, both indoors and out, plus recycling. Workshops are hands-on where participants make a rain barrel. Not only do participants leave with a barrel ready to install, they are given information about controlling mosquitoes in containers and information on how to connect it to a gutter. Rain barrels can also be purchased pre-assembled from many retail outlets online or by making one yourself. Most rain barrels hold about 50 gallons, although additional barrels can be connected to increase storage.

A rainfall of less than ½” will fill a barrel (assuming about 2,000 sq. ft. of roof area.) By using other environmentally-friendly components, you can extend the effectiveness of your rain barrel’s water. For example, topping a 3-4” layer of organic mulch around plants or adding compost in the planting hole or top-dressing existing plantings are just two simple ways to stretch the water. Once the barrel has water in it, it is as simple as filling a watering can or turning on a soaker hose to quench thirsty plants.

Additional information about rain barrels and other water conserving ideas can be found in an Extension publication entitled: A Guide To Environmentally Friendly Landscaping. It is available online at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/EP079. For more information on workshops, other water conserving landscape tips or have general gardening questions, contact the horticulture staff at the Pasco County Extension Service at 352-518-0156, 813-996-2411 or 727-847-2411, ask for the Extension office.
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