North Texas residents can order 50-gallon rain barrels for $75 each until Sept 7 through the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth. Above, colorful rain barrels at the Common Grounds Community Garden in North Richland Hills. Photo by Karl Thibodeaux.

June 23, 2014

By Rita Cook 

The key to keeping up with water needs in North Texas may be as simple as convincing homeowners to install rain barrels in their yards, says a researcher at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth.  

According to Will McClatchey, research director at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas aka BRIT, given the current trends of drought and population growth, the Dallas-Fort Worth region will likely see water use restrictions in the near future. 

“However, this does not need to be the case at all,” he said. “We have enough rainfall to meet our local water needs, and even the needs of a growing population in the near future.”

To encourage local homeowners to capture that rainwater, BRIT and the city of Fort Worth have joined forces to offer a bargain on a rain barrel. North Texas residents can order the Rain Water Solutions’ 50-gallon rain barrel for $75 each until Sept 7. The barrels, made from 100-percent recycled plastic, have a retail value of $129.

“Our goal is to sell 1,000 rain barrels, but I think we are going to easily exceed that number,” says Chris Chilton, director of marketing and public relations at BRIT. “We are planning on running this program twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.” 

Right, the rain barrel offered by BRIT and the city of Fort Worth for $75.

And if you are wondering if installing one rain barrel can make a difference, McClatchey says the answer is “Yes.” 

“Assuming that there are at least 150,000 homes in Fort Worth, if each home had one 50-gallon rain barrel that was filled only five times each year, then more than 7.5 million gallons of water would be captured and used to help water those lawns.” 

Rainfall in the DFW area can be unpredictable but on average there is more rain in May, June and October and less in January, July and August. 

“The problem is that we do not wisely use the water that falls from the sky,” said McClatchey. “We are a population that prides itself on being independent, but for some reason many people have chosen to rely on the community at-large when they very easily could capture and use their own water on their own property.”

Statistically the largest use of residential water is for lawns comprised of non-native species and other poorly adapted landscape plants. Widespread adoption of native landscaping combined with rain barrels is a simple solution for homeowners to become more independent and to prevent government interference, says McClatchey. 

Rain barrels don’t have to be an eyesore either. They can be painted, enhanced with a planter or tucked out of sight.

But whether you have one or more, the barrel should be strategically located somewhere it can collect the most rain from the roof’s surface.

“A single rain barrel can be filled in a matter of seconds to a few minutes, depending on the rain,” said McClatchey. “So a modest 2,500-square-foot home receiving one-inch of rainfall on its roof will deliver more than 1,500 gallons of water.”

Above and below, hand-painted rain barrels created by BRIT staff.

This is enough for 30 rain barrels of 50 gallons; therefore multiple rain barrels should be seen as investments in future security, McClatchey says. 

Some folks also believe that the nitrogen-rich rain water might be better for plants than municipal water too.

“Most plants are adapted to receive water that falls from the sky as rain rather than water pumped from underground or stored in a reservoir,” said McClatchey. “Although other sources are probably not harmful to most plants, rainfall is what plants naturally use.”

Even better, water stored in rain barrels can also be saved for months and McClatchey points out that water stored in rain barrels is not a breeding ground for mosquitoes either.

“Modern rain barrels are designed with screens that prevent insects from getting into them,” he explains. “A range of options may also be used such as adding a small amount of bleach or dish soap or BT that can neutralize anything attempting to live in the water.”

Top 5 Reasons to Harvest Rainwater from BRIT: 

•Protect our rivers, streams and ponds from runoff pollution

•Divert water from the municipal storm drain system

•Conserve this vital natural resource and reduce your water bills

•Use the nitrogen-rich rain water to grow healthy and lush plants

•Control moisture levels around the foundation of your home

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For more information or to order a rain barrel, go to BRIT's Rain Barrel Offer.

Above, plastic planter urn rain barrel from Amazon.com. 


Rita Cook is an award-winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. Contact her at rcook13@earthlink.net.

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