…but it is illegal in some states. No, I’m not talking about marijuana (which still isn’t legal here). I’m referring to capturing rainwater. For the most part, this law correlates to the abundance of natural rainwater and by definition–how its variations will effect the local ecology*. Here, no one cares if I capture a 55-gallon barrel of rain because the average annual precipitation for my city is 41.1 inches (according to weatherbase.com), and since 1 inch of rain per acre is 27,154 gallons (according to water.usgs.gov), and since I have 0.48 acres, if I do the math right (27154*0.48*41.1) then I receive an average of 535,694.1 gallons of precipitation per year on my property alone. Excluding precipitation from the winter months, I have roughly 88.1 days with rain. Every time it rains, I inevitably capture a full barrel, so 88.1*55 would be 4,845.5 gallons of captured rainwater per year (assuming I capture a full barrel every time–which I don’t because I don’t always use it up before it rains again, and the spigot is necessarily located where I can’t access all the water anyway), which is 0.9% of the total precipitation for that land mass. Yeah, who cares?
*Except Texas. Last I checked, they still don’t have revised water laws, despite the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. And of course, there’s the Las Vegas area….
Therein lies the background, but why would I want to bother with this? Firstly, it’s a free resource that saves me money. 4,845.5 gallons = 647.7 cf, at $26.9 per 1000 cf, that’s… $17.42 saved for the year. Okay I suppose that isn’t much for an entire year, but still, it’s free. Secondly, there’s the smug factor. I’m doing my part for the environment. Nevermind that I use twice that per shower…. Thirdly, we had the barrel sitting around as a souvenir from our trip to Kentucky, and it wasn’t serving any purpose, and besides–a project! These reasons were as good as any.
The barrel had sat on the patio for several years at the townhouse, and a lot of water had leached into it in that time. It was a two person effort to move the thing, so before I did anything else with it I needed to drain it. Choosing the widest board–the one with the plug–I drilled a hole near the bottom to both drain it and to place a spigot. The resultant bilge smelled wonderfully of residual Wild Turkey and was perfectly clear with a slight amber color, and having filtered through carbon and infused with ethanol, was probably okay to drink. Still, I erred on the side of caution and refrained.
While it drained I needed to figure out a screen system for the input. So I simply cut a board, assembled a square, fastened it together with a staple gun, then attached nylon screen to both sides.
Next, I needed to drill a hole in the top. I admit, this sounded simpler than it was. I did not fully appreciate the strength of American White Oak, hardened by fire and essentially pressure-treated with bourbon. Nor did I posses the appropriate tools for the job. The process claimed four drill bits.
I wanted the frame removable yet secure, so I opted for 4 wood finishing nails.
Then I had to find a way to attach a spigot. I went to Lowe’s a perused the plumbing. My first thought was to attach a bulkhead, but the wood was rather thick for that. I stood with the parts in had, staring at the barrel, but then I considered that I might be overthinking it. After all, the beauty of the wood was that it was solid yet flexible, and it’s water-tightness was because it swelled when saturated. Perhaps the wood alone would make a seal around the brass. I widened the hole just enough to get the first threads in, then with brute strength and a set of vice grips, forcefully cranked the spigot in. Then to test it, I positioned the barrel upon a couple beams so it was high enough to access the spigot, filled it partially with water, and waited. Initially, it leaked, as was expected. But after several hours, the leak stopped. Satisfied, I cut the downspout to accommodate the barrel.
A year later and it’s still working just fine. I’ve since drilled an overflow, although in downpours it just spills everywhere anyway. But I’ve also installed the rain garden since so all the excess flows away. I’m thinking we could use another one of these for the front yard. With two, I could save $34.84 a year–enough for a bottle of bourbon.
Added to my vegetable garden, it’s one more incremental step towards self-sufficiency.