Monday, June 9, 2008

Why your house needs a rain barrel

During last year's drought we learned just how fragile the water supply is for central NC. In short, we are a high-growth, increasingly urban region that relies on reservoirs fed by small rivers whose upstream sources are less reliable than in the past -- in part due to unchecked development. New state legislation makes it likely that in future dry periods municipalities will act more rapidly to put water-use restrictions in place. And new tiered water rates in Durham will allow the city to charge higher rates to consumers who are high users of water.

We can expect more droughts more often with the rate at which global warming is progressing. Rain barrels, which catch the flow from roofs for use in gardening, became critical to keeping ourdoor bushes and trees alive last year. For rain barrels to be useful, it is important to get them installed ahead of the dry season -- when spring or early summer rains will fill them up.

We began painting and selling rain barrels in spring 2008 as a fundraiser for YIKES! Our barrels are lightweight plastic (formerly used for non-toxic food or other water-based products), hold 55 gallons, and have a screened hole in the top where you can direct your gutter flow -- you will need to cut the gutter with a hack saw and insert a flexible plastic diverter (Home Depot has many varieties). The barrels have a brass faucet, with a no-leak connector at the bottom to hook to your watering hose, and an brass overflow at the top (to be attached to a short piece of hose which you can let empty on the ground or hook back up with the drain that your gutter originally emptied into).

Our painted barrels are prepped with a primer that helps paint adhere to plastic; then the design is done with either latex or acrylics paints, and a top coat of clear polyurethane lacquer is sprayed or painted on top. We recommend using 1/4 mosquito dunk per month per barrel (or a cup of vinegar, or a thin film of cooking oil on surface) to keep them free of mosquito larvae (yes there is screen, but we hear the critters are darn inventive at getting into vessels with water [dunks are avail. at Lowes or Home Depot].

Painted barrels: most are $65-85 -- see other rain barrel post for more photos and info on prices/delivery/discounts, etc.)

You can pick up your barrel with advance notice at the our workshop on the Green Oil & Light Campus, at the end of S. Goley St., off Angier Ave., Durham [just east of Alston; turn right (south) on S. Goley] A barrel will usually fit into a hatchback or large car trunk. We will deliver to Durham addresses inside city limits for $15; delivery outside city can also be arranged; email to inquire. Contact: Sandy at scsmith @

Contact us

yikes! coordinator: Sandy Smith-Nonini
Email me at scsmith @
or call: 919-286-7396 or 358-6341

Workshop at Green Oil & Light Campus
1410 Cross St. - at end of South Goley St.
off Angier, just 2 blocks east of Alston, Durham
Henry Wills, intern, 308-3147
Marc Dreyfors, director
marc @
or call: 919-957-1500

Mailing address for yikes:
c/o: Sandy Smith-Nonini
2030 Englewood Ave
Durham, NC 27705