Ever since we started this business we have had the yearly question from people about whether they should purchase rain barrels. The question/problem: When it's raining, we don't need one, when it's not raining, it won't fill up so why have one. Our answer is usually the same, it is better to be prepared than to wish you had been. Last year (2015) was a very wet season, we ended up using all of our stored water to give everything a good drink before winter. Four years ago we ran out of stored water and resorted to city water, everything still died and we had to pay the water bill. So we beefed up our capacity and now should be able to make it through most summer and fall seasons in good shape. The number of rain barrels you need depends totally on you, we have people with one rain barrel and a couple of people who have purchased their eighth one!
Remember that just a little bit of rainfall will fill up your rain barrels (100 square feet of roof space will give you about 60 gallons of water!) So use the water as you need it and keep the downspout diverters ready to harvest if the rains become less frequent. If you end up with full rain barrels at the end of the season, treat your trees and shrubs to one last good drink for the fall. If you use them over and over as they fill and provide water for your flowers and crops, then you will be saving money and giving your plants naturally soft water that they don't have to filter. Happy Harvesting!
Joel Gettys is the co-founder of Rain Barrels Iowa. He is our resident gardener, product designer, chief of installation at our Rain Barrels Iowa store.