Make a Rain Barrel for Lammas

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Why Use a Rain Barrel?

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Make a rain barrel to collect water that you can use during dry weather. Image © Patti Wigington 2009

For many Pagans, an important aspect of the spiritual journey is reverence and respect for the earth and all its resources. Part of this respect for the planet often includes conservation of the resources we use regularly.

By the time Lammas, or Lughnasadh, rolls around, summer is in full swing. Many areas are forced into water rationing, some face drought every year, and the crops in our gardens are beginning to look a bit brown and parched. By making a rain barrel, you can gather rain all year long, and then use it during the dry season to water your garden, wash your car, or even bathe your dog. This works best if your house has a downspout running out of a gutter, but you can still make a rain barrel if you don't have a spout -- it will just take longer to fill the barrel.

Rain barrels are available commercially from many home improvement stores. However, they typically cost between $150 to $200. Here's how to make a rain barrel of your own for just the cost of supplies - the one in the photos cost less than $20 to put together.

Gather Your Supplies

To make a rain barrel like the one shown here, you'll need the following:

  • A plastic, food grade 50-gallon barrel. You can usually find these in the classified ads -- I got mine for $15.
  • 3/4" C-PVC fittings - basically, you'll need a piece to run down out of the barrel, a 90-degree elbow, a length of straight pipe about 6" long, and t-connector with a spigot on top*
  • Clear PVC glue
  • 1 3/4" brass hose fitting

*The rain barrel in the photos was constructed using bits of pipe and some couplings I had laying around the house, so there are several additional pieces on my barrel. If you buy new fittings just for this project, yours will look a lot more streamlined.

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Connect Your Fittings

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Connect the fittings and PVC pipe together as shown. Use couplings if you've got scrap pieces of pipe. Image © Patti Wigington 2009

The top of your barrel, which should have at least one removable cap, is actually going to be the bottom. That means that after you put it together, you're going to flip it over, so think of the barrel as being upside down while you're working.

Attach all your fittings together so that you have a drop of about two inches out of the bottom (which is really the top), a 90-degree turn, and then a straight length of pipe that comes out beyond the rim of the barrel.

Be sure to use PVC glue so that everything stays together permanently.

Invert the Barrel

Connect the top threaded piece of pipe into the removable cap - it should have a threaded center so you can screw in a piece of 3/4" pipe with no trouble at all.

Flip the barrel over so that the pipe is now coming out at the bottom, as shown. You'll need to place your barrel on an elevated stand, because gravity is your friend - the water has to be able to flow downwards to get out of the barrel. I used logs for my stand, but you can also use cinder blocks, or even build a table out of scrap lumber. Be sure that whatever you use is sturdy - a full 50-gallon barrel can weigh 400 pounds!

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Make a Hole for Your Water Source

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Cut a hole for your downspout in the top of the barrel. Image © Patti Wigington 2009

If you're using a downspout gutter as your water source, this part is really easy. Simply cut a hole in the top of the barrel (which used to be the bottom) large enough for you to insert your house's rain spout through.

If you don't have a downspout, and you want to simply catch rain in the barrel, you can still do this. Cut away the top of the barrel using a saw. Place a section of sturdy screen over the top of the opening, and then staple in place. You may wish to cut a frame out of the top piece that you cut off, and place that over the screen to keep it in place. The screen will keep bugs and leaves from getting into your water, but still allow rain to collect.

Ideally, the downspout is the best collection method, because all the rain that runs down your roof will end up in your barrel.

The Finishing Touches

Finally, drill a small hole near the top of the barrel. This will be in case of overflow - it will prevent excess water from sloshing out the back of the barrel where the downspout is, which is right by your house wall.

Attach a brass hose fitting at the end of the PVC pipe. When you're ready to use water out of the barrel, simply attach your hose, turn the spigot, and start spraying.

If you don't like the idea of a plain barrel sitting in your yard, you can decorate it with designs and fun symbols.

Note: Some people create multiple barrels, and then connect them all together using fittings beneath the stands. This method works well if you have a lot of space. Most people can get by with one or two barrels.