A rain barrel is not just a water receptacle. It is a means of water conservation that can provide your plants and gardens with mineral-rich rainwater while slashing your domestic water consumption by up to 40 percent. A rain barrel is also a simple means of preparing for emergencies that could affect your family's safe water supplies.
The simplest way of conserving and storing water is to purchase retail plastic or wood rain barrels. These durable containers can hold anywhere from 25 to 100 gallons of fresh rain water. Choose from basic models or select special rain gutter barrels that make it easier to conserve and use your rainwater.
For example, a spout or hose is a must-have feature that lets you use your rainwater immediately. You can water your vegetable gardens, flowers or plants, or you can siphon off the collected fluid into gallon jugs. Another great feature is a debris screen, which is necessary if you plan to drink your rain water, because it prevents dirt, leaves, particles and other debris from getting into the barrel. Finally, some innovative multi-gallon rain barrels catch rain water for storage and siphon some of it off to grow flowers or other plants atop the barrel. Combination rain barrels are a great choice for homeowners and gardeners who value beauty and functionality at the same time.
Since a rain barrel is such a simple structure, it is easy to build at home. Many people choose an ordinary barrel, such an old wine-making or storage cask, and insert a plastic liner or garbage bag. You can also add a screen made from a kitchen splash screen or cut-away screen door material to catch debris. Alternately, some people prefer to repurpose an existing plastic receptacle. Any size or shape of container will do in a pinch, but the best way to make rain barrels is to use inexpensive plastic garbage bins that you can buy at any home improvement store.
If you're more ambitious, you can use a 55-gallon drum and some simple supplies to build a sturdy rain barrel with a spout to siphon off water. The spout can be constructed from ordinary plumbing supplies such as faucet parts and tubing. Inexpensive window screening material is tied to the top of the barrel with rope or twine to protect the water from contamination.