I’ve blogged a few times about our rainwater collection/irrigation system. Okay, calling it a system is exaggerating slightly. Our “system” consists of a City of Vancouver barrel that collects rainwater running off our roof, six big storage barrels at the back of the yard and a pump and hose to move the water from the collection barrel to the storage barrels.
During the last few weeks I have been watering the vegetable garden using the rain barrels. Although The Man installed a tap at the bottom of one barrel, I prefer the “dip” method, of filling the watering cans by dipping them into the barrels. This requires a lot of strength, especially when the barrel is less than half empty. Height and very long arms are advantageous in this situation. When the barrels are almost empty, I roll them over the to the apple tree, turn them over and use the last few litres to water the three.
Here are some of the “dos and don’ts” of rainwater collection.
Do cover your rain barrels. Standing water can encourage the growth of mosquito larvae. Have a screen on your collection barrel and lids on the storage barrels to keep out insects and other particles that can contaminate your water.
Don’t drink the rainwater. My rainwater is collected from my roof, so it likely contains contaminants from the asphalt shingles as well as bacteria and virus from the squirrels and birds. This means that we never drink our rainwater, and we always wash our vegetables in tap water. Although our rainwater reservoir is part of our “emergency plan”, that plan also includes the use of a high efficiency ceramic water filter and purification tablets.
Do occasionally empty them out. If you let the water sit in the barrels sit too long in the warm summer sun, algae grows. While I am sure that this might provide your plants with extra nutrients, it does smell quite bad. You can reduce algal growth by occasionally emptying, cleaning and drying out your rain barrels.