Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away

I was going to go with a Milli Vanilli inspired title, but I guess our “Toddler Radio” Pandora station won out.  Have to admit it’s been wearing me down… wearing me down in a glittery, high pitched, Sillies-Shaking-Out, psychological torture type of way.  Who knew psychological torture usually involved ukelele accompaniment?

But you’re not here for hilarious post title puns, right?  No, you’re here to be wowed with yet another of my awesome projects.

I assembled a Rain Barrel.

Let’s chat a little about why you also want one.


A buddy of mine had “a guy” that got him food grade 55-gallon drums dirt cheap last year.  I bought quite a few and moved them with us to the new Homestead.

How much water can be harvested?  It depends on the size of your house/roof and works out that for every

1 Inch of Rain falling on 1000 Square Feet of Roof Footprint  =

600 Gallons of Water

Nice!  That’s a lot of valuable water, (almost) free for the taking.  So let’s get to catching it.

The particular barrel pictured above is thanks to a couple hours of uninterrupted toddler nap-time, and the EarthMinded Rain Barrel Kit I purchased as part of a workshop hosted by our local Parks Department.  I will write a detailed post stepping you through the quick and easy process in case you’d like to pick up this specific kit for yourself… but first, here are some thoughts on why I want as many rain barrels as possible connected to my gutters.

Rain barrels help us implement a few key Permaculture Principles, and I could throw in a few others if I wanted to flex my rationalization muscles a little:

  • Catch and Store Energy
  • Obtain a Yield
  • Use & Value Renewable Resources
  • Produce No Waste
  • Use Small & Slow Solutions

In practical terms, rain water is ideal for irrigating our garden beds and food systems, plus any other wet job around the home.

If you’re tied to a municipal water source, turning the faucet ain’t free.  Plus that stuff includes chemicals like fluoride and chlorine you might not want in your veggie bed, even in trace amounts.  If you use a water softener, it sucks to buy those forty pound yellow bags, lug them to the tank, then watch it all be piped out a garden hose.

If you’re on a well like us, using rain catchment for garden irrigation saves the cost of running a well pump, plus wear and tear on that expensive household necessity.

I use a barrel off the garage to wash the vehicles and dogs and irrigate our small apple patch.

I use a barrel to irrigate my wife’s wildflower and songbird flower beds.  This one is also used to water my barley fodder I sprout for the chickens.

I use another barrel to water the food forest I’m putting in.  I fill their swales the day before a guaranteed downpour to keep the contents fresh.

I am just now installing and will use two barrels fed from my chicken coop’s metal roof to keep a five gallon bucket topped off for their nipple waterers, and irrigate the whole garden.

I made the plunge into the deep end as I personally feel it’s best if each of us do what we can to keep as much water on our property as possible, so long as it’s managed and not damaging any structures.  That goal not only benefits our soil, vegetation, and trees… but it helps alleviate the massive problems we have with constant run-off further away.  Run-off that violently erodes top soil and contaminates fresh water sources.  Yes, it’s much better to keep our water local and help it seep into the landscape.

For some reason us modern folks want to get water away from us as fast as possible out a downspout, quickly to the curb, and happily watch it rush swirling into a storm sewer, relieved it’s gone.

Storm_SewerPhoto credited to Wikipedia.

All the while that torrent picks up lawn herbicides, chemicals and oil from the street, and agricultural run-off, before flushing into our creeks, streams, rivers, and finally oceans – merrily merrily merrily merrily polluting all the way.

Farm_RunoffPhoto credited to Wikipedia.

Did you know there is a confirmed Dead Zone void of all life in the Gulf of Mexico usually the size of Connecticut?  Nothing.  Nada. Dead. Caput.  No oxygen.  So no plant life.  So no fish life.  One primary culprit is the excess fertilizer and nutrient run off that comes gushing out the Mighty Mississipi.DeadZone

Of all water gracing earth, only a tiny (and shrinking) percentage is potable.  We short-sightedly do our best to get it away from us as fast as possible when it falls as rain.  Then we pay money to get it piped back to our house.  That doesn’t quite compute.

Last, I’ll mention that water is pretty essential for Family Resilience in short-term (or longer-term) tough times.  I don’t know about you, but I like to have a glass of it every now and then.  If you’re lucky enough to have a metal roof harvesting rain, you can pretty much drink straight from these barrels if you had to.  With a good water filter like the Katadyn Hiker Pro or Big Berkey (like I mentioned here), you can drink the water collected off any roof, even asphalt shingled, since those introduce undesirable chemicals and debris that should be filtered out.

All that stored water is comforting to have on hand if your city water main breaks, or the tap stops working for whatever reason… or our well pump blows up.

One word of warning now that we’re all excited to go out and start sprouting barrels. You need to research your local regulations. Apparently there are some incredibly over-reaching, meddling, nanny states (I’m looking at you Oregon and Colorado) where it is illegal to capture the rain water coming off your roof.  That completely boggles my mind and I can only imagine what other crazy anti-Liberty, and perhaps well-intentioned but environmentally ignorant, laws might be lurking there.  So if you don’t live in a free state, you might want to check local statutes in case your tax dollars kit out a government Hydrogen and Oxygen Compound Rationing Jack-Booted Brigade or something.

Sigh……..Sorry, got a little worked up there……

Join me next time for a full review of the EarthMinded Rain Barrel Kit and a step-by-step DIY tutorial on hooking it up for yourself.

Update: Here is that tutorial and review.

Do you have rain barrels or other catchment?  What creative ways do you use the stored water? Nothing makes me happier than washing a muddy dog without help from our well pump.

Posted in Emergency Preparedness, Garden, Homestead, Permaculture, Resilience Tagged with: , , ,
31 comments on “Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away
  1. Amber says:

    Lovely! This is something I have been looking into. Thanks for sharing!
    Amber recently posted…5 Herbs That Grow In ShadeMy Profile

  2. Christina says:

    Thought you’d like to know some of your information is outdated. Rainwater catchment has been legal in Colorado since 2009. In the West, problems like rainwater catchment being illegal stem from historic water rights and water laws and may seem silly or downright unbelievable to people from other parts of the country that are not as arid. But it must be remembered that Colorado is really just a high alpine desert. Colorado Water Wars began in the 1850’s (Colorado Statehood was 1876 just for a bit of historical perspective) and have continued basically unabated ever since. If you buy property in Colorado, or elsewhere in the West, that does not specifically mention and grant water rights–you probably don’t have any. And yes, that means you cannot pull a bucket of water out of the creek that runs through your own property because somebody else owns that water. Again, it may seem unbelievable to those who live elsewhere, but in pioneer times, water was life or death; and as many of us worry today, it may well come to that again.

    • Mike says:

      Hi Christina, may I ask if you are referring to Colorado Senate Bill 09-080 passed in 2009? I researched it to some extent before specifically calling out CO. It appears as if there are a number of very stringent requirements, which all must be met. Therefore, water catchment via a rain barrel is still illegal for the vast majority of CO residents. I hope I’m wrong, but it reads as if the average Joe in Denver can’t have a rain barrel.

      Here is a decent description I found of the exemption requirements.


      If I’m incorrect and there are more recent laws or something else that has improved that 2009 bill, I will very much appreciate being corrected and will be happy to amend my post.


      Also, I readily admit I don’t have the historic or local context regarding many laws in places I don’t live. However, the science isn’t settled that the best way to help alleviate higher altitude desert woes is to have precious rain water gushing down storm drains to feed rivers that seem to have devastating floods on a more regular basis than they used to in CO. Instead, many believe capturing rain and allowing it to seep into the landscape to (among other things) replenish diminishing or nonexistent groundwater reserves, would be much more beneficial all around.

      I appreciate your thoughts and want to thank you for stopping by.

      • Christina says:

        About the exact statute(s) that changed the more stringent law(s) and/or regulations, I cannot comment as I have not done that research, nor will I undertake navigating that maze unless it becomes relevant to my particular circumstances. It is, however, my understanding from commonly available local information sources on the Western Slope of Colorado, that most people in most geographical areas of Colorado can now have a rain barrel catchment system. This many indeed not be the case for those attached to municipal water systems, as your cited article asserts, but again I cannot comment.

        I am also not a scientist, nor a traditional expert on water resources. However, on the law, I am on more solid ground: Law has little to do with justice, fairness, or often even commonsense, sadly. It generally has to do with might and historical precedent. And there’s a whole lot of both in Colorado. The history of the Water Wars is quite interesting and sordid, and as I mentioned, still going on to greater or lesser extent . Few things will get the non-urban Coloradan more worked up than water and water rights. And there are good and valid arguments of precedent, stewardship, justice, financial compensation, and more on all sides:

        For instance, should a property owner not be allowed to sell water just like selling sand and gravel? And if so, why could they or their heirs not be able to sell that asset to the City of Las Vegas, or to any other purchaser, should they so desire? What if all one owns, a family’s sole legacy, is a certain amount of water rights (the large family ranch having been sold decades ago.) But then balance that against the modern problem of ever diminishing clean water without which life itself cannot be maintained. Given this climate of shortage, should a landowner be able to water their golf course lawn, or indeed their golf course? Of one thing you can be certain: It’s not as simple as it may appear on the surface and somebody’s ox is going to get gored.

        Personally, I love all things permaculture. I wish everyone in the world would take a page out of Sepp Holtzer’s book or Steve Solomon’s book for areas like Colorado; or Bill Mollison’s for areas more tropic. And I think familiarity with the works of Sir Albert Howard, Masanobu Fukuoka and Rudolph Steiner should be required for one to be considered a well-educated human.

        But the deep philosophy of how to best husband our water and other natural resources cannot solve the very human relationship problems inherent in the water rights issues of the Rocky Mountain West. Once again, I caution that the issues are deep, old and complex and no matter what direction the winds of law and legislature blow, the human cost will be grievous and substantial.

        (BTW, I like how your comment system handles reply comments, keeping them together in a thread is much more understandable if there’s a discussion.)

        • Mike says:

          Very well said on all accounts, Christina. So much so that I have almost nothing to add, except for kudos for such a well-thought out response in so few words, that even somehow manages to slip in a legal precedent that goes all the way back to Biblical times.

          If and when you decide you might be interested in hooking up a rain barrel in CO, you should check into the details of that bill I cited, since I’m almost positive it’s the one you think makes rain barrels legal. It makes such a practice illegal for most residents, and definitely all residents who have access to a municipal water source.

          Thanks for your comments as they’re always very thought-provoking.

  3. Bjorn says:

    ” Apparently there are some incredibly over-reaching, meddling, nanny states (I’m looking at you Oregon and Colorado) where it is illegal to capture the rain water coming off your roof. ”

    And with that sentence you blew away the credibility you had gained in the rest of your post. A quick google search reveals that it is NOT illegal to harvest rainwater coming off your roof in Oregon. In fact, Oregon encourages it and provides documentation on how to capture and store it, and even encourages business buildings to do it.

    You might be thinking of the legendary story about the Oregon man who was ‘just innocently catching rainwater on his land and got in trouble by the big bad government’ which usually leave out the parts of the story where he was caught diverting a creek, and then when he got in trouble for that he reshaped his land to turn his whole property into a pond.

    To restate it simply:

    In Oregon it is NOT illegal to catch rainwater falling on your roof. It is very illegal to turn several acres of land into your personal pond, and very illegal to divert creeks and rivers.

  4. Mike says:

    Hi Bjorn, I’m sorry but I’m not sure which specific example to which you are referring. However, I have read several accounts of Oregonians who have been punished for only catching rain… not diverting creeks, which is a separate issue.

    It appears as if Oregon permits some types of rain containers, while outlawing others (like small ponds). Am I incorrect in my understanding? If so, please provide a reference as I would be very happy to be wrong and would amend my post.

    If I am correct, I stand by my statement of “… it is illegal to capture the rain water coming off your roof.” Depending how one chooses to do it in Oregon that makes the most sense for their particular property, it is illegal.

    • Bjorn says:

      Yes, in Oregon you may catch it either in Rainbarrels like your method, or other approved containers.

      Here’s a whole pdf by released by the Oregon Building Codes showing many methods of containment, including long term storage, building debris traps, and filters:


      By law you can only catch rain that falls on a roof.

      You cannot build ponds or other methods of catching or diverting run-off.

      In Eastern Oregon I can see why some people would squawk since it doesn’t rain nearly as much (it’s a High Desert, similar to Colorado). But that doesn’t stop me from encouraging friends and neighbors to set up a rainbarrel at their roof gutter’s runoff. No one I know has ever gotten in trouble for this.

      In Western Oregon it rains enough that you’d probably fill a 600-gallon drum once a week even during summer.

      I HAVE heard of people expanding their irrigation ponds without permits, diverting creeks, and building million+ gallon ponds without permits. That will definitely get you a fine or more, and within reason.

      But rooftop rainwater gathering is 100% okay in Oregon.

      • Mike says:

        Thanks for the additional info. Great stuff.

        However, I think Oregon can do more and I still respectfully take issue with your closing statement of “But rooftop rainwater gathering is 100% okay in Oregon.”

        Sounds like I can’t dig a small (2′ by 2′) pond? Sounds like I can’t install a swale? Both of which are very ecologically sound techniques that have innumerable benefits some bureaucrat in Denver *likely* knows nothing about, except he has a large rubber stamp and a red inkpad for people who agree with many studies saying those techniques might be best for their particular situation.

        As a general rule of thumb, but not in all cases, I’m against a blanket government prohibition of something for all people, in all cases, in all places.

  5. Bjorn says:

    I think you mean Salem, not Denver 😉

    A 2′ by 2′ pond would be a 2 dimensional plane of water. That wouldn’t be permitted by Oregon law.

    a 2’x2’x2′ pond would be considered a decorative pond. If you were to build one of these, I doubt anyone would care. But if you built a hundred of them, all 2 feet apart from each other, Then you’re just trying to cause troubles and build a swamp.

    A swale can be built if you have a permit to build one. I’ve seen swales in Oregon. But you can’t just build one willynilly on your property, ESPECIALLY if you’re going to use it to capture and store rainwater. You CAN build one, with a permit, to divert rainwater away from your home or property however.

    Regardless, your post is still wrong and misleading because you say:

    “where it is illegal to capture the rain water coming off your roof.”

    And it isn’t true. You CAN capture rain water coming off your roof in oregon, and the state provides methods of doing it.

    You CAN capture rainwater in a swale IF YOU HAVE A PERMIT.

    You CAN build a pond IF YOU HAVE A PERMIT.

    It is not illegal to capture rainwater in Oregon from your roof. It’s not illegal to capture rainwater with other methods if you seek permits first.

    And I’m pretty happy to live in a state that wants to look over a person’s plans and intentions before giving the rubber stamp. I’d rather live in a state that wants to make sure people are educated about their intentions, instead of living in a libertarian state where my neighbor can build a nuclear reactor if he wants.

    • Mike says:

      There are no bureaucrats in Denver? Wanna bet? 😉 (In all seriousness, thanks for pointing out I was confusing the two comment threads. Oops.)

      Sounds like you’d be happy if I went and altered my statement to “where it is illegal to capture the rain water coming off your roof… except in a small, finite number of containment techniques explicitly allowed by regulators.”

      Objection noted.

      I feel I’ve adequately defended myself from your elegant opening position of, “… you blew away the credibility you had gained in the rest of your post.”

      Also, nice herring on the nuclear reactor. I choose not to bite as it’s a ludicrous statement that has no bearing on this conversation, or most likely any other.

      Again, in all seriousness, I do enjoy the conversation and appreciate you being a good sport. Only in respectfully talking with those we disagree with can we ever make any progress.

      • Bjorn says:

        Actually you can capture all rain water coming off your roof provided you have containers to hold it.

        In the pdf provided, it explicitly shows how to calculate your family’s household needs and consumptions, and what size container you would need to contain that much water.

        It even provides a graph of monthly average rainfall in Oregon, and provides a way to calculate how much rain will fall on your roof.

        In Oregon, you could buy a 50,000 gallon tank, bury it in your backyard, and guide all your gutters to the tank and fill it with nothing but rainwater and it would be completely legal.

        You cannot, however, build a 50,000 gallon POND, and direct all your rainwater into the pond – **WITHOUT A PERMIT**.

        Your post is misleading, just own up to the mistake you made in your rant.

  6. Patrick says:

    LOL, Maybe you should change your dripping “Rain Barrel” font color to red. How dare you point out ridiculous regulations that should be struck from the earth. I’m just a simple unfrozen caveman lawyer, but I know water falling from the sky can be slowed and used by a property owner in whatever application they wish, if they follow the three principles of course. 😉 If not, they can still use it, they are just a dick.
    Patrick recently posted…We Have Been Adopted!My Profile

  7. Amanda says:

    We’re in the process of building a new greenhouse, garden, and chicken coop. I will definitely have gutters on at least the greenhouse to use as much as possible!
    Amanda recently posted…Clearing Land On the HomesteadMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      It’s so convenient having water right where you need it. Your greenhouse will love a few barrels.

      Looking forward to watching your new garden take shape.

  8. ehaph says:

    lol at the anti-liberty rant you can collect rainwater off your roof in those states dumbass.

    teapartier confirmed

    • Mike says:

      Your iron clad legal argument and nuanced mastery of debate and logic almost had me convinced.

      Unfortunately for you, I then remembered (as stated above) Oregon does not allow one to collect rainwater through many techniques…. and Colorado does not allow any rainwater collection off your roof if you have access to a municipal water source, or don’t meet several other strict criteria.

      Thanks for reading!

  9. I can’t believe that some states won’t allow you to collect rainwater from your own property. Although I am lucky to live in a water rich state. Even so, a rain barrel would serve the garden very well and reduce wear and tear on our pump system. Thank you for sharing on Green Thumb Thursday!
    Rachel @ Grow a Good Life recently posted…Goodbye Granny of Annie’s Kitchen GardenMy Profile

  10. Nancy W says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing on the HomeAcre Hop. Hope to see you again tomorrow! – Nancy The Home Acre Hop

  11. Stoney Acres says:

    Great Post! Rain barrels have been on my list for a while. We just moved to a new home and I’m already eyeing spots to get 2 or 3 installed! I’m looking forward to your other posts on the subject.

  12. lisa lynn says:

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for sharing your post on The HomeAcre Hop! I’m featuring it today 🙂 I hope you’ll stop by and share more!
    lisa lynn recently posted…The HomeAcre Hop #71My Profile

    • Mike says:

      Thanks Lisa. I proudly have the Featured HomeAcre Hop badge on my home page. Now I need to go add a second or something. Thanks for collecting and helping to get out such great info week in and week out. It’s one I’ll never miss checking out.

  13. Valerie says:

    Love this post. I’m featuring it on Green Thumb Thursday.


    Cottage Making Mommy

  14. Vickie says:

    We have been using 1,100 gallon “rain barrels” for a couple of years now to water our fruit and nut orchard. We are developing some land in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California so that eventually (hopefully next year)we will sell our home in the valley and build our forever homestead up there. One of the first things we built was a 10 x 12 tool shed with a metal roof and gutter system. That gutter diverts rainwater into a 1,100 gallon water storage tank. When that one is full, we pump the water into another tank and let the first tank re-fill. When full again, we pump into the third tank and let the first refill again. We are in the process of getting our fourth tank which we will install next month. The lowest tank is right next to the orchard. Since it is only slightly higher than the actual orchard, there is no real water pressure coming out of the tank, so we use zero-pressure battery operated timers to water our fruit and nut orchard when we aren’t there. With this system we only have to visit our property once every two or three weeks to transfer water to the lower tank and make sure everything is still where it’s supposed to be (drip lines, timers, battery levels). This has been invaluable to us because we have been able to plant our orchard without living there yet, and once we move up to the future homestead, most of the trees will be producing fruit/nuts. Let me tell you – that water is good and clean! We do have a couple of filters in the system before the water gets to the tank, but if the poop hit the fan and general chaos ensued in this country, we at least know we have water that, with very little filtration, would be drinkable. You can see the whole set-up on my web site http://makingoursustainablelife.com/our-gravity-fl…-system-part-1 and then look at Part 2. It has done very well for us. Once we build our home, also with a metal roof, we will have a large underground cistern and several more water storage tanks. This will water our raised bed vegetable garden and our chickens. Our well is already in operation. We use a solar powered pump, which has been an excellent purchase. By catching rainwater to irrigate our thirsty crops, we can save the pure well water for human consumption only!
    Vickie recently posted…Chicken Canning ConundrumMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      Outstanding! That sounds like a great system and you can color me envious. I’ll be adding larger tanks on the side of our house that is uphill from my fledgling food forest I’m putting in slowly. So far one barrel feeds 5 pawpaw trees (and the swales in front of the trees). Thanks for sharing!

  15. happy momma says:

    Wish a rain barrel was an option for us. We live in Utah where water rights are over the top fights. The “rainwater” belongs to the state, it is illegal to collect it and use it for certain things. There are many rules about them. Have a rain barrel, and you are looking for a fight with the government. It is crazy out here.

  16. This is pretty nice idea, can you spare us some thoughts if how much is the budget for this kind of setup?

    • Mike says:

      Feel free to check out my review of a pre-packaged, production rain barrel kit.


      There’s a link to where you can buy that kit on Amazon for around $30. You might be able to find barrels for free… or usually $10-15 somewhere like Craigslist. New is much pricier.

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