Conserve Water with a Rain Barrel

Vancouver's frequent drizzles don't have to be a letdown. Make use of our rainfall by using an eco-friendly rain barrel

Credit: Flickr/Arlington County

Join a rain barrel program and put a stop to excessive water usage

As you’re watering your new herb garden with treated drinking water, you might want to consider another other watering option: catching rainwater yourself and storing it in a rain barrel for later use.

The rain barrel idea is simple: stick a tank under the gutter’s downspout to catch and store the rain. This helps the environment, lowers your city water usage, and keeps your garden green during the summer months.

Vancouver started a subsidized rain barrel program several years ago, and since then they’ve sold some 3000 units. Made of dark-green recycled plastic, the barrels hold 341 litres, are easy to install, and only cost $75 (each household can buy two).

Other cities with subsidized rain barrels include Richmond, Delta (which even delivers), Langley, Maple Ridge, Mission, Prince George, while Nanaimo (and region) offers incentives to install cisterns. Keep in mind these programs change all the time so check with your local city council to see what might be available.

Why You Need a Rain Barrel

Even if subsidized barrels aren’t available, or you want a different size, shape or design, rain barrels are an affordable and simple way to get some eco-benefits for your home and garden:

  • While 80% of the earth’s surface is water, less than one per cent is drinkable. In Vancouver, lawn and garden watering make up almost 40 per cent of total household water use during the summer. So using rain barrels protects our drinking water.
  • Rain barrel water typically comes from your roof, and if your roof is clean (and you clean out your tank on occasion) it will contain very little contamination. City water systems often contain chlorine and sometimes fluoride, which might be fine for drinking water, but your garden sure doesn’t need it.
  • You can use your rain barrel water when you need it, even on non-sprinkling days.
  • If uncaught rainwater hits the street it can cause urban flooding and wash pollutants into storm drains and into the ocean. Catching rain can reduce flooding.

Keep in mind that with the average Vancouverite using more than 340 litres of water a day (with much of it going to garden care), a 341 litre barrel is not going to solve our water-use problems, it’s simply one part of the effort.

Considering some stats say we over water our gardens by 2-3 times we can make our water go further by only watering as needed and following the City of Vancouver’s water saving guidelines.