The decision to switch irrigation from your lawn or city garden or well to rainwater is not just a smart financial move, but it is better for the environment. Rainwater collected and reused will not flow into the storm drain. If you have a sprinkler system, you can leave it in place and only use it as a supplementary system, or you can eliminate it.
The mechanics and plumbing of a drip irrigation system with a rainwater tank require an entirely different configuration. Once the new system is in place, the conversion is simply a matter of turning a faucet on its rain barrel instead of opening the faucet or setting a timer for a sprinkler system.
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Preparation of your rain barrel
- Using a saw, cut a hole in the top of the barrel to accept a gutter to collect rainwater. If a grille or screen is used to act as a filter, cut the hole of the appropriate size to receive the grille or screen.
- Holes in the rain barrel to accommodate overflow and spigot. Cut a hole in the back of the barrel of the valve. Cut a hole toward the top of the band for overflow.
- Secure the dowel in the lower hole. Use Teflon tape for the threads. Caulk the circle to create a waterproof seal.
- Attach the PVC bonding adapter to the overflow hole. Place the elbow with PVC glue. Clean and glue a piece of pipe to the elbow to bring the water overflowing away. The diameter of the tube depends on the location and how far you want to take the water away from the barrel. Caulk the hole to create a waterproof seal. To buy a rain barrel you can read our best rain barrel Guide.
How to hold and use the rain barrel
- Set the rain barrel at the site to be used. Make sure it is flat. Choose the highest point around your house, because drip irrigation is based on gravity. Cut and move the existing sewer, so that it enters the receptacle to receive the rainwater. If a grille or screen is used at the top, cut the gutter guard, so it rests on top of the screen.
- Place a soaking hose or drip irrigation tape into the spout in the barrel. Stretch the hose or snake tape around the plants or trees you want to be watered. Attach additional hoses or tapes if necessary.
- Let a barrel of rain fill with water. When you are ready to use, turn on the faucet and let gravity pull the water to where you have directed it. Shut down the faucet when it is done, or you will lose more water when it enters the barrel during the next rains.
Tips & Warnings
- Drip tape is less expensive than soaking hoses, but it is usually only available for purchase from agricultural or horticultural supplies companies.
- Do not allow water inside the cylinder to get stagnant. If it is not possible to use all the water, it should regularly be emptied to avoid the accumulation of bacteria and molds.