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How to use rain barrels for water conservation

The water you collect can be used to water your plants, clean off outdoor tools, or put out a bonfire...the possibilities are endless!

YORK, Pa. — Pennsylvania is fortunate to have a large resource of fresh water, but it’s important to conserve, especially during times of drought.   

Jodi Sulpizio, a natural resource educator with the Master Watershed Steward Program said, “Even though we have a plentiful resource, we need to take care of it.” 

After a lack of rain during the summer, you may be wondering how you can creatively source water.  

"Rain barrels are a water conservation device. You can connect it to a downspout and the water that runs off your roof runs into the barrels," said Sulpizio.

The water you collect can be used to water your plants, clean off outdoor tools or put out a bonfire... the possibilities are endless!  

Fred Oleson, a rain barrel coordinator for the Master Watershed Steward Program has had a rain barrel for 10 years. From his own experience, he can attest to how beneficial it is. 

Not only is it great for day-to-day jobs, but in times of excess water, it also can help mitigate flood concerns on your property.  

"With the first rainfall, you can catch the first 60 gallons before it starts overflowing. It's a way to help monitor the stormwater on your property,” said Oleson.

The Master Watershed Steward program has barrels for sale. However, for those interested in making them yourselves, the process is easy. Just find a food-grade safe barrel with a lid, add a shield on the catch and place the barrel on level ground so it doesn’t fall when full. 

An important note to remember do not drink the water unless it's treated. This is important as the water from your roof may cause chemicals from your shingles or bird waste to pollute the supply. 

Tim Stambaugh, an avid volunteer, says that he loves being a part of the Master Watershed Steward program. 

"If everybody helped a little bit, it would go a long way [with water conservation]," said Stambaugh.

For more information on how to DIY your own rain barrel check out PSU Extension Rain Barrel Guide.

If want to purchase a rain barrel, they are $65 and come complete with all the parts needed to assemble. You can contact Jodi Sulpizio at jrb143@psu.edu if interested. You can also contact Sulpizio with other questions or interest in joining the program. 

More information can be found on the Master Watershed Steward Program website.  

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