A rain barrel is a container used to collect and store rainwater from your roof that can then be used later to water plants, wash your car, or add to a swimming pool. Ordinarily the water would simply be diverted to a storm drain or out onto your property. This “soft water” contains no chlorine, lime or calcium, so your plants will love it. Other benefits include protecting the environment from driveway and yard run-off, saving money by lowering your household water bill, and reducing the amount of water possibly flowing into storm sewers.
The 55 gallon barrels that the SWCD sells were previously used for food shipping and come in Terra-Cotta or Gray. Each one is cleaned and comes with a hose shutoff on the front which accepts a standard garden hose thread. A fitting with a cap towards the bottom is for linking multiple barrels together, if you wish. Towards the top is an overflow fitting and cap where the homeowner can install a short section of an old garden hose to direct the water to a more acceptable location after the barrel is full. This overflow eventually lowers the water back below the screen on top of the lid. Plastic fittings are used because brass and steel do not interface well with plastic barrels, which could leak.
The hole(s) in the top is/are covered with residential grade aluminum screening which is strong enough to keep shingle grit, leaves, debris, small animals and mosquitoes from getting into the barrel. The lids are either a two piece similar to a mason jar or a one piece with a metal strap.
The homeowner has a couple options to redirect the water from the downspout. Both involve cutting the downspout off a few inches above the height of the rain barrel. One can then add an inexpensive flexible tube available from a hardware store or reattach the bottom angle piece off of the cut off downspout so that it points towards the top of the barrel.