The Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District hosted a workshop Tuesday, Sept. 25, to teach residents how to build their own rain barrels.

This demonstration rain barrel at the Lake County SWCD filled up due to storm the previous night. (Teri Cadeau / News-Chronicle)
This demonstration rain barrel at the Lake County SWCD filled up due to storm the previous night. (Teri Cadeau / News-Chronicle)
The program started by informing the half-dozen participants about rain barrels.

"It slows down water runoff, which keeps it from picking up pollutants and dumping them in the sewers and pushing them into the lake,” said Emily Nelson, conservation outreach coordinator for Lake County SWCD. “It also prevents erosion and reduces the likelihood of flooding.

“Plus, plants tend to like it more,” she said. “They like the temperature more. It’s not just cold water. And if you use it on your plants and lawns, that saves you money on utility costs."

Water from rain barrels can be used to water flower beds and lawns, wash vehicles and clean siding.

The water collected isn’t potable; therefore, it isn't safe for drinking or cooking. For those using it to water a vegetable garden, Nelson recommended watering the plants at ground level to avoid getting water directly on the edible parts and to wash vegetables well before consuming.

When building a rain barrel, the first step Nelson recommends is preparing the site to set up the barrel. Consider where downspouts are located.

"Try to place your barrel out of direct sunlight if you can, since UV radiation can break down the plastic and can encourage algal growth," Nelson said. "Also, think about where you want to use this water. Is it near your garden, or can it be reached by using a hose? If so, then you need to think about water pressure."

Each foot of elevation provides 0.433 pounds per square inch of water pressure. Nelson recommended either building a platform of wood or stacked cinder blocks to keep the barrel in place and provide elevation.

Nelson had two demonstration rain barrels hooked up to the sides of the Lake County SWCD building. It rained the night before the workshop; Nelson said it managed to entirely fill the barrels. Each square foot of rooftop will yield an average of 0.62 gallons of water in a 1-inch rainfall.

The workshop allowed participants to use tools to convert 55-gallon drums into three types of rain barrels: an open-top barrel with a screen, a closed-top barrel that stood upright and a closed-top barrel that will lay on its side.

This was the Lake County SWCD’s first rain barrel workshop. Future workshops are tentatively planned for the spring.

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