Rain barrels hotly debated!


Rainbarrelflickrbfinnegan This isn't the only blog that attracts hot debate over its garden-related rants, judging by the reaction to Owen Dell's dissing of rain barrels.  Fifty-nine comments there so far, and another 21 over at the Garden Professors blog, which linked to it.  Check it out. 

And for the record, this Ranter is taking NO POSITION on rain barrels, ya hear?

Photo credit.


  1. I have saved a lot of rain water this spring and use it for my house plants and the things in the greenhouse. There is no way I could save enough rain, even in this bumper crop Spring, to make even a dent in the consumption of my 2.5 acres. Instead, the yard has gone more and more “native” and the olive orhard is on its own.

  2. Honestly, these are a luxury and more of a feel good item. Owen Dell is right on the money on calling out the hypocrisy of eco-consumerism. The main reason I have a barrel is to get rainwater for orchids and other tetchy plants. Where I live, they only charge for the delivery of the water, which leads to all sorts of irrigation abuses, so I would be far better off taking money I would invest into a rain collection cistern and relandscape my garden with native plants that don’t need to be irrigated to survive. For the $10-$20K it would require, I could hire the Ogdens to to do it!

  3. I love my 6 rain barrels, but here is Florida we get some rain–50″ annually. Owen assumes that we all live in southern California. He also made a comment on the garden professors’ blog saying that no one had refuted his numbers and that we’re all too emotional about the topic.

    I say anytime you get people to think about being responsible about their water use, and rain barrels do that, the better it is for our limited potable water supply. Maybe it’s emotional, but we need to start somewhere. We’ve been wasteful for too long!

  4. Owen makes a point about the unhealthy nature of the run off from asphalt shingle roofs. So… how does he get rid of his? I don’t know about his setup, but the rain which lands on my roof ends up in the garden anyway.

    Global warming will make the droughts worse; fracking has made tap water toxic in some areas of the US; peal oil may lead to expensive or uncertain power. I am thinking that, if need be, the rain barrels can feed just the raised vegetable beds while the rest of my small suburban garden is transmogrified into xeriscape.

  5. I have to agree with Ginny above–the original post seems to assume that everybody lives in Southern California AND has a lawn.

    I don’t have a lawn that I water, and I live in North Carolina, which is basically a swamp. My frog pond project has been unfinished for a month because it keeps raining and filling the darn thing, which then takes over a week to dry out, whereupon it rains again. (I have to have it empty to put in the liner.) My rain barrels runneth over. (Hell, I have a hard time growing anything that requires dry or well-drained soil!)

    I’m not saying his numbers are wrong, but perhaps an indicator in the article that this ONLY applies to his area would be in order…some of us get a LOT of use out of our rain barrels!

  6. Here in Denver as in the entire state of Colorado I believe that it is illegal to use rain barrels or other containment systems. Rainwater belongs to those who own the water rights in that area. Just because it falls on your property does not mean that you have ownership of the water.

    I think that the state legislator is reviewing this issue. But water rights in the West are a hot legal issue…

  7. The whole attack on rain barrels seems a bit silly. I’ve used one for years. My 50 gallon barrel is simply a covenience when I want to water a few plants. I stick the watering can in the barrel, fill it up and water those few plants that I think need it without having to go to the other side of house and drag the hose around. Rain barrels don’t save the world. They are just a convenient source of a little bit of water when you need it. No big deal.

  8. Not sure about all the eco-hip jargon, but in the Washington DC area our two 55 gallon rain barrels allowed us to reduce our water bill by about $300. last year. We put another one under the drain to our air conditioner giving us additional water for plants and avoiding an always wet patch near the house. All in all we watered all our deck plants, the vegetable garden, a number of rose and azalea bushes and a number of newly planted trees all summer just from the barrels.

  9. We live in a county/water district that promotes rain barrels. The water district holds seminars & if you attend you get a low cost rain barrel. We are dependent upon a reservoir that has begun to frequently run low because of population increase. The county and water district are even promoting well drilling for those of us in less populated neighborhoods. We had two rain barrels long before they became so very ‘popular’. We are not in Southern California and our area has a higher than average annual rainfall. We will be installing an underground cistern this fall to catch rainwater. Our use of rain barrels has nothing to do with watering the veggie garden or flowers.

  10. I totally agree with you, Ginny. We have to start somewhere. A $100 rain barrel is a manageable expense for many; a $1,000+ yard re-contouring to let the rain soak in on your property is manageable for only a few.

    It’s so unfortunate to hear someone who claims to be concerned about water conservation call rain barrels toys.

  11. Boy, that Owen sure knows what he knows. And there is NO middle ground for him.

    I use a couple rubbermaid bins to catch roof run-off. I’m in the market for a re-purposed barrel, but barrel and money in hand have not coincided…

    I think I’m doing a great thing, and my porch plants do too. And every drop I take off my roof is my contribution to the community I live in. We’re in Phoenix, and water is a shared commodity, and not to be taken for granted.

    I don’t shower every day, either. If folks that didn’t have to shower daily – and there are a lot of them – didn’t? We’d have some water savings.

    The second comment to Owen is not hostile. I didn’t read it as hostile. But he sure comes out swinging. Huh. Sucks to be him. All or nothing. No middle, no compromises. Sad.

  12. It didn’t seem worth my time to go read the original article after reading these comments, but here in the Midwest rain barrels address our water quality issue as we do not have a water quantity issue. Run-off pollutes our waterways; the more we can do to let the rain water infiltrate, the better our water quality.

  13. We are a 4 year old Atlanta, Ga based company.We see rain barrels as a great way for our clients to “dip their toe” in the sustainability movement. After purshasing a rain barrel, they often buy a composter and some eventually get a rain tank. One of our most popular items these days is our rain barrel kit, in 15 minutes you can build a top of the line rain barrel. We all have to start somewhere. gene kelly http://www.therainbarreldepot.com

  14. I don’t see the logic of “don’t do something small because it’s not something big.
    Arguing “You can save so much more by conservation so it doesn’t make sense to add this little bit.” Except when – as in my case – I’m already aggressively saving water by conservation measures in the house. And I’m not trying to water a Southern California lawn, I’m watering vegetables, fruits and (mostly native) perennials which I and the wildlife will eat.

  15. Whoa. That guy is harsh. This kind of commentary falls under the all too often heard “it doesn’t solve all the problems, so what’s the point?” byline that we from both tea partiers and teamsters. Hey, how about just taking some responsibility, save a bit of water, do a little recycling and god forbid, cut back on the gas, fat and needlessly angry tirades that blah up the blogosphere! I have a rain barrel and it doesnt solve all my watering problems, but if I need a little water, it’s there…and the rest can trickle back into the ground.

  16. I have three rain barrels and have no illusions that they provide enough water for anything other than watering my potted plants. I will target some plants and empty the barrel with a hose – I know I’m not saving any money at all but it’s a convenient source for water for me.

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