There may come a time when rainwater catchment systems will be a standard building feature, just like indoor plumbing or electricity. In many communities around the U.S. and the world systems are designed to catch rain water from roofs and store it for future use – not just in the garden, but as gray water and even – when designed correctly – as a source of drinking water.

Installing a rain barrel in your landscape is an eco-friendly first step in water conservation. You can use this supply to water your plants and vegetables by reducing runoff and the need for fresh water for home gardening. It’s also a great way to dilute the impact of the salts and minerals that build up in the soil over time and harm plant roots. And you’d be amazed at how much runoff you can collect from a roof during any rain, especially in the desert.

It’s no secret that water is the most essential resource in the world. We all – plants, animals, humans – need it to survive. And only 2.5% of our water supply is considered freshwater. The rest is found in the form of salt water in oceans. Of the freshwater that exists, most is locked up in glaciers and ice caps. Unfortunately, much of our drinkable freshwater is in danger of drying up through desertification or becoming too contaminated for human consumption.

Rainwater is naturally low in salt and chlorine and plants love it.  The installation of a rain barrel not only helps by storing  water for use later, but it also helps to save you money on your municipal water bill.  And, no,they don’t have have to be hugely expensive. The idea is to capture a natural resource that is wasted every time it rains. Plus, you know how robust your plants look after a good rain. They love it.

Here are a couple of things to consider if you decide to install rain barrels.

1. Include a screen to keep out debris.

2. Ensure that your rain barrel has a cover and a tight connection where water enters the barrel to prevent mosquito breeding and algae buildup.

3. Rain barrels should not be used if your roof contains asbestos.

4. Your garden plants love rainwater, but water collected in rain barrels is not suitable for human consumption.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has an excellent publication on using rain water in urban landscapes. 

If you’re interested in installing a rain barrel in your home garden, we’ll be happy to help you find the right product.