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August 3, 2017

Rain barrels convenient and conserve precious water

Photos/Erin McCarty
Jill Apperson collects water from her open-system rain barrels.
The Clarks’ closed-system rain barrel collects runoff from a downspout.
Rain barrels can be connected to air conditioning systems to collect condensation.
It’s free water, you don’t have to worry about it. It’s there when you need it, and you’re not impacting your well.
— Deirdre Clark of Marshall
By Erin McCarty
Contributing Writer

Some homeowners in Fauquier County look forward to soggy days.

With the installation of rain barrels, they capture roof runoff, providing a natural, clean water source for watering plants and lawns, washing cars and other tasks that do not require treated water.

Marshall residents Deirdre and Bill Clark have used rain barrels for more than 10 years. With water supply an increasing issue in the county, they are happy to have an alternative system, also helpful during power outages.

The Clarks use their rain barrels to water plants and to control runoff, which would otherwise erode their driveway.

“It’s free water, you don’t have to worry about it. It’s there when you need it, and you’re not impacting your well,” Mrs. Clark says.

Neighbors Jill and Joe Apperson also rely on rain barrels to water their potted plants and gardens. They have three rain barrels, one of which collects condensation from their air conditioner.

“The hotter and the drier it is, the more (the air conditioner) is running, so the more you get,” Mr. Apperson said.

The Appersons especially like having the rain barrels to water potted plants, as their well water is hard and requires treatment that may otherwise harm the plants.

“We needed it, and it’s convenient, and it’s just been a blessing,” Mr. Apperson said.

The John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, which helps protect natural resources in Fauquier County, supports rain barrel installation. Conservation Education Specialist Michael Trop estimates there are 234 acres of rooftops in Warrenton alone, yielding 6.3 million gallons of potential runoff from an inch of rain. Capturing some of that water in rain barrels helps to ease water pollution issues.

How to install a rain barrel

JMSWCD, which has conducted workshops on them, provides rain barrels at cost, $75 apiece. Each comes with all the parts a homeowner needs to install it. The conservation district has sold about 100 rain barrels in the past five years, Mr. Trop said.

Rain barrels may be purchased online as well, but they cost more. For those who prefer to make their own rain barrels, it will be much cheaper.

A homeowner should decide whether he or she wants an open system, where the rain water pours into the top of the barrel, or a closed system, where the rainwater flows from the gutter through a pipe into the side of the barrel. Open systems are easier to set up, but require mosquito treatment and a mesh covering to keep out debris.

Suitable barrels are at least 45 gallons and free of chemicals. Hardware stores carry spouts, pipe and other needed supplies. Each rain barrel also requires an overflow system that allows water to pours off when the barrel fills.

Anyone setting up rain barrels should carefully consider where to put them. Barrels need solid, even ground so they don’t topple when full. Additionally, check with your HOA to make sure rain barrels are installed according to regulations. This may include placing them in the rear of a lot or screening them with vegetation.

For more information, contact the John Marshall office at 540-347-3120, extension 3, or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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