May 18, 2009

Rain Harvesting

By Dale W. Armstrong, Coordinator Florida Yards & Neighborhoods, Pinellas County Extension

The interest in rain harvesting just amazes me! Yes, we have filled up our rain barrel workshops at Extension in prior years, but never as far in advance as this year. All remaining workshops scheduled this year are full already. The extreme drought our region of Florida is experiencing is obviously a contributing factor as well as, I believe, more and more folks adopting sustainable lifestyles and the movement towards “living green”.

For those of you who the term Rain Harvesting is not totally familiar, let me explain. The basic concept is nothing more than several components working together to collect and store rainwater from your roof. The stored water is then used instead of the potable (drinking) water that you may now be using to water your landscape, or for other outdoor uses.

Components of a simple rain harvesting system are the catchment area (your roof), conveyance (your gutters and downspouts), and a storage system (rain barrel of approximately 55 gallon capacity). Rain barrels are typically used to fill watering cans or jugs, or in some cases a short hose may be used. But, keep in mind that since this is gravity-feed only, water will flow slowly from a hose.

A more complex system replaces a barrel with a cistern that hold hundreds or thousands of gallons. It may include filtration and a pump with a distribution system for hoses or sprinkler system attachment. A cistern may be installed above ground or below. Each location has advantages and disadvantages that must be compared to decide which is the better solution for your situation. Unless you are a seriously competent do-it-yourselfer, this more elaborate system is best left to the professionals, such as a cistern installation specialist and/or a certified irrigation contractor. Depending upon your installation you may need to obtain a permit for a cistern. And of course, don’t forget to check for any restrictions that your homeowner association may have.

Rain Harvesting may be the solution to how you can reduce or eliminate the use of potable water for landscape use. Since the workshops are full here at Pinellas County Extension, please see the resources below to help you learn more about rain harvesting as well as a list of local businesses that sell barrels.

Do It Yourself - Recycled Barrel Sources
  1. Thomas King - 13042 Gibson Lane - Odessa - (813)920-8112
  2. D & C Brothers (Chris) - Hercules Road - Clearwater - (727)447-1733
  3. Don’s Marine Salvage - 5601 126 Ave. N. - Clearwater - (727)576-8577

Complete Rain Barrels
  1. Twigs ‘n Leaves Nursery - 1013 Dr. MLK Blvd. S. - St. Petersburg - (727)822-5400
  2. Wilcox Nursery - 12501 Indian Rocks Rd. - Largo - (727)595-2073
  3. Carroll Brothers Nursery - 4950 38th Ave North - St. Petersburg - (727)527-5418
  4. Country Club Nursery - 9850 Starkey Road - Largo - (727)397-4438
  5. Dolin’s Garden Center - 801 62nd avenue N. - St. Petersburg - (727)525-3434


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