UGA GreenWay News

A Greener Way of Living, at Home and Abroad

The Gift of Water – A Rain Barrel

Drought is a word being tossed about in the media far too often these days. This year we saw corn withering in the fields, giant cracks in the soil and lakes 12 to 15 feet below pool.  We are definitely experiencing a rainfall deficit. Here in Athens we just got nearly 2 inches of rain. Helpful, but we still need more.  According to the December Drought Monitor over 62% of the continental U.S. is experiencing the most severe and extensive drought in at least 25 years.  By the end of November, 96% of the state of Georgia was experiencing abnormally dry conditions or in drought.  The costs of the drought are plentiful and widespread. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture retail food prices will increase in 2013. Higher food prices are not something any of us look forward to.

Water shortages will most likely continue to be an issue of great concern throughout the U.S., especially given population growth and changes in the climate.

So, what can we do?  A good place to start is by adopting water conservation practices.  There are lots of small changes each one of us can make to reduce the water bill.  I have already started doing a lot of the simple things, and you probably have as well.  It isn’t that hard to turn the water off when brushing your teeth, or washing dishes by hand. I always wash full loads of dishes and clothes (not together of course).   My conservation practices outdoors are helped by the fact that in my community there are hourly restrictions and requirements to use a hose with a shut-off nozzle, or handheld container.

This year I decided to make an even greater commitment to water conservation and reduce my water bill even more.   I have a couple of small rain barrels, but it wasn’t enough water, so I got a giant rain barrel!  Well, it is really more of a rainwater collection tank since it isn’t shaped like a barrel and is much bigger.   I had a local Athens company – Mark & Tina at Back to the Garden – install it. To protect my rainwater from being contaminated by the container, they used a food grade plastic container.

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The container was placed in my backyard near the house and connected to two downspouts with plastic pipes.  The water was then transported by an underground pipe to spigots in the garden to make the water easily accessible.    It took very little time to set it up and they did a great job!  For me it was a worthwhile investment.  My water bill was reduced and the garden was beautiful!   Of course it has to rain for it to work……..

A rain barrel or rain collection system would make a great gift for the gardener in your life.  Maybe you can even bring out your creative side and paint the barrel.  Last spring the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government coordinated an online auction for beautifully painted rain barrels. Check out Roll Out the Barrels 2012 to see what the artists created. It is a great idea to turn something practical into a work of art for your garden.

Give the gift of water this year through a rain barrel, rain collection system or water conservation devices.  It is a gift that really does keep giving.

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About Pamela Turner

I am an Associate Professor and Extension Housing & Environment Specialist at the University of Georgia. I have a passion for helping people improve their home environment and live greener and healthier lives. An important part of that is helping people weed through all of the information to find trustworthy sources. www.gafamilies.org/home

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