The use of rain barrels to collect runoff from downspouts is not a new practice, but it seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Jan Aiels with the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids says they’ve sold hundreds of rain barrels this spring and have a waiting list for another order expected to arrive this week. “Many people have bought more than one…they have an overflow hose, so when one barrel fills, it immediately starts to fill the second barrel and you can store more water,” Aiels said. Most rain barrels sell for around $100.

There are a number of benefits to collecting rain water. Aiels says if more homeowners would use rain barrels it could reduce the risk of flooding. “I have a rain barrel on my home because, that way, I can control the runoff from my property. I can catch it and reuse it in my garden and on my lawn rather than watch it go down the gutter and into the storm sewer,” Aiels said.

The barrels sold at the Indian Creek Nature Center hold 65 gallons of rain water. A hacksaw can be used to cut the downspout and place the barrel underneath. There’s a screen on top of the container to keep out mosquitoes and debris. A standard hose can be attached to a spigot at the bottom of the barrel. “The pressure from all the water in the barrel forces water out through the hose,” Aiels said.

Capturing rain water and saving it to water lawns and gardens can save homeowners money on their municipal water bills and the rain water is chlorine free – so it’s better for plants. The Indian Creek Nature Center launched a “million gallon challenge” campaign this spring. Aiels says 1,000 rain barrels, during a “typical” spring or summer, could reduce runoff by one million gallons.