Do you know what a rain barrel can do for you?

Rain barrels collecting water in the garden Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock

Climate change has made things both drier and wetter for cottagers, depending on your location and the time of year. But you can balance things out by installing a rain barrel to catch the downpour when it happens.

Why use them?
Collecting rain during a storm keeps some of that rainwater from soaking the ground and running into the lake, allowing you to save it and redistribute it later, say, during a dry spell, when your yard would relish a drink. According to a report by the District Municipality of Muskoka on its annual rain barrel program, a community using rain barrels can lessen the impact that heavy storms have on water systems (both man-made and natural) by holding some of it back and dispersing it later. Rainwater is free and cleaner than lake water, and it doesn’t carry the same sanitizing chemicals as tap water, which your plants will appreciate. Barrels can also help control the runoff from storms that can often erode cottage shorelines.

How to set up your own
To collect rainwater, you’ll need a roof with an eavestrough and a food-grade barrel (you don’t want anything nasty leaching into the water) to catch water from the downspout. A simple mesh filter that sits between the downspout and the barrel is a good idea too, to keep out debris and insects. Larry Pomerantz, the owner of RainBarrel.ca, sells 180 to 1,000-litre barrels repurposed from old cherry, pickle, and olive containers, starting at $55. He partners with community groups (municipalities often subsidize rainwater programs) to do batch sales, usually in the spring, to reduce transportation costs. You can also buy a new barrel from a big box store for anywhere from $50 for a standard plastic tub to $400 for something a little more fancy looking.

Make it easy
Typically, barrels have a spigot near the bottom that uses gravity to let the water flow. You can prop your barrel up on a stand, making room underneath to catch water in a watering can. But you can also add a pump to redistribute the water anywhere on your property. Barrels alone won’t save us from the ravages of climate change, but they are one good way we can adapt.

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