How To Install A Simple, Effective Rainwater Collection Barrel For Use With Your Drip Irrigation System

If you use drip irrigation for your garden or other landscaping project, then installing a rainwater collection barrel with a hose bibb that can be attached to the drip line can save you money and provide your plants with chemical-free water. The barrel will collect and hold over 50 gallons of rainwater, and the low-volume flow of water through a drip irrigation system makes the barrel ideal for a water source. Below is a list of tools and materials as well as a step-by-step procedure to follow while building your project:

Tools and materials needed

  • 55-gallon plastic drum with tight-fitting lid and 2-inch bung

  • 3/4-inch hose bibb (male fitting)

  • 2-inch PVC threaded male fitting-to-2-inch PVC slip adapter

  • 2-inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe

  • Window screen fabric

  • 5-minute marine epoxy

  • Gravel

  • Electric drill with 3/4-inch spade bit

  • Scissors

  • Measuring tape

  • Fine-grit sandpaper

  • Hacksaw

Step-by-step procedure

1. Select the location for your rain collection barrel - The most important factor in choosing where to place your rain collection barrel is finding a high-volume run downspout in your gutter system. If you aren't sure where the best location is, take a few minutes to observe your gutter's runoff during a rainstorm. You will likely notice that one downspout is probably superior to the others in terms of runoff volume, and this is a key spot for placing your rain barrel.

Of course, aesthetic factors also are important; you may not be prepared to place a rain collection barrel in your front yard or in another high-visibility location, so you may need to compromise by picking a lower-volume downspout for the sake of hiding your barrel from public view.

In addition, be sure that the chosen location is stable and able to sustain the weight of a fully-replenished barrel. Keep in mind that barrels can hold well over 400 pounds of water, and poor soils can shift or sink under the load. If you find a location that is otherwise suitable, you can add a few inches of gravel to form a solid base of support.

2. Prepare the barrel's spigot and water collection system - Once you have found a good location for your rain barrel, the next step is to transform it by installing the means to fill and empty the barrel. Begin by drilling a 3/4-inch hole about 6 inches up from the bottom of the barrel, then insert a 3/4-inch male hose bibb into the hole and screw it into place. Be careful not to use too much force, or you may strip the plastic surrounding the threads.

After the hose bibb is in place, prepare about 2 ounces of 5-minute marine epoxy and coat the junction between the bibb and drum with the mixture. Be sure that there are no exposed gaps between the bibb and the drum; if necessary, prepare an additional batch of epoxy and re-coat the area to ensure the bibb is both secure and watertight.

On the top side of the barrel lid, screw the male threads of a 2-inch threaded PVC adapter into the bung (hole). You will not need to use epoxy for this joint as long as the connection is secure. Once the adapter is in place, measure and cut 3-feet of 2-inch PVC pipe, then slip it into the opposite end of the adapter. Be sure the pipe is pushed firmly in place so that it won't fall over during use.

3. Construct the rainwater filter on the end of the pipe - After the pipe is installed, use a hacksaw to cut a 45-degree angle across the top end of the pipe. Sand the edges of the pipe with fine-grit sandpaper, then cut a piece of window screen mesh in an oval shape to match the angled opening at the top of the pipe. Coat the edges of the pipe at the angled end with epoxy, and lay the piece of mesh on top of the epoxy-coated pipe. Hold it in position, if necessary, until the epoxy sets and grips the mesh.

4. Cut-off the downspout and adjust the barrel - After the barrel is prepared and ready to put in place, use your hacksaw to make a perpendicular cut across the downspout, so it opens up just above the top of the barrel's intake pipe and rainwater filter. Move the barrel into position so the downspout contents will drain into the intake, through the filter and down into the barrel for storage.

Go to websites like those for irrigation contractors and services to learn more about watering systems.