Lawn and garden watering takes close to 40 percent of summer's home water use. Even a homemade rain barrel can help cut that drain by collecting no-cost water from your roof and storing it safely until you irrigate ... or wash your car.

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Rain Barrels - A Green Way to Conserve Water

Rain barrels are a great way to collect water that runs off of your roof, and then you can use it later to water your plants. Several farm and garden stores and local hardware stores are starting to carry rain barrels now. But, you can also make one if you can find a barrel or even a trash can will work, with a lid.

This rain barrel is home made. We’ve got a 55 gallon barrel to collect the water in, and it has two spouts. This one is an overflow spout up here. Down below is an outlet with a handle that turns so that you can let water out of the barrel. We’ve put a hose on so that it’s easy to fill a bucket or watering can, or even to run it over to the garden to water out of it.

The other important thing is on the top, we’ve cut holes in the lid of this so that the water from the downspout can easily flow into the barrel, but put a screen underneath. So if you take the lid off, there’s a screen underneath there to keep mosquitoes out and debris from the gutters out of the barrel.

In the winter time, it’s a good idea to drain the water from the rain barrel and put it in a garage, or some other dry storage place. Or, you could drain the water out, and leave the spout open, at the bottom, so if it gets moisture inside, it would run on through and drain out the bottom of the rain barrel. You could leave it outside, or you could turn it upside down.

This feature story prepared with Jennifer Smith, former Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Douglas County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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