Just in Time Rain Barrels

Rainbarrel Daisy chain

Just in Time Production is a popular manufacturing strategy with the MBA crowd. It's also a popular strategy for the procrastinators among us. At the Santa Fe Master Gardener's Fair this spring I saw a simple demonstration of how to build an inexpensive (Woo Hoo!) rainbarrel. After an excessive amount of planning I've finished two new rain barrels (with one more to go) just in time for the summer monsoon rains.

The essential part of a rainbarrel is a food-grade, plastic barrel. I found mine at the local soda bottling plant. Of course, the first person I spoke to didn't know if they even had barrels to sell. I called back another day and found a better informed employee who told me that used 55 gallon barrels were available for $20 each. I drove over that day and picked up two bright blue barrels. The barrels still had soda syrup in the bottom, so I gave them a rinse and poured the sugary water over the compost.

The next challenge was figuring out how to place and link the barrels. We have two reused olive barrel rain barrels located under two downspouts. I had to clear and level the ground then stack concrete pavers to get the needed slope for water to flow from barrel to barrel. After preparing the ground I placed the barrels and marked them for the overflow fittings and hose bibs (faucet).

Just in Time Rain Barrel - List of Materials:

  • 1 * 55 gallon plastic (polypropylene) barrel [from your local soda bottler]
  • 1 * 3/4" Bronze hose bib, long spout [drain faucet at bottom]
  • 1 * 3/4" Bronze Pipe to Garden Hose Adapter [overflow at top]
  • 2 * 1" I.D. Galvanised Washer
  • 2 * 1" I.D. Rubber Washer
  • 1 * Goop Marine Adhesive/Sealant
  • 1 * 7/8" Spade bit [or very slightly larger diameter]
  • Windowscreen for rainwater inlet
  • Garden hose for rainwater overflow
  • stable, level base for barrel

Here is a more complete set of directions - Tools & Materials to Make Your Own Rainbarrel. In building our upcycled 'Just in Time' rainbarrels I discovered a few challenges along the way. Here are a few tips that should make building your own a little easier.

  • No single hardware store in our town had all of the needed materials, be ready to visit a few.
  • Plan the placement of inlets, hose bibs and overflow fittings before cutting into your barrels.
  • Locate the hose bib a few inches up from the bottom of the barrel so that you can attach a hose or slip a bucket under the faucet. Also, a few inches of water at the bottom of the barrel acts as ballast on windy days.
  • A 7/8" bit is easy to find but it's definitely smaller than the threads on the hose bib and hose adapter. Carve the hole slightly larger and dry fit the threaded pieces before you try to glue them into place.
  • The right size socket wrench makes threading in the garden hose adapter much easier.
  • Assemble the fittings in this order: hose bib or adapter, galvanised washer, rubber washer, sealant, barrel.
  • Goop Marine sealant cures quickly, have all pieces ready to fit into place before applying the adhesive.
  • Screen over the inlet on your barrel so you don't create a mosquito breeding ground in your yard.
  • Opaque barrels reduce the likelihood of algae growing in barrels.
  • 55 gallons of water goes quickly in the garden. You'll probably need a few barrels.

Now all I need to do is paint or cover the bright blue barrels. Maybe I can convince EcoMommyo that they match our blue back door?

More Info:

Just in Time Production Strategy

Santa Fe Master Gardeners Association

Southwest United States Monsoon

Climate Assessment for the Southwest - Monsoon

Tools & Materials to Make Your Own Rainbarrel

The Rainwater Harvesting Community