Forty percent of the water used in a typical Morris County home in the summer is for irrigation of lawns and gardens, Joseph Dunn, Morris County Soil Conservation district manager, said this week.
Dunn told the county's freeholders Wednesday homeowners could save on that water expenditure by using a rain barrel to gather rainwater from their gutters.
It would relieve them of paying their public water purveyor for the water, and could save them a portion of the cost of their sewer bill, Dunn said, since many sewer bills are based on a home’s water use. Residential water use increases 40 to 50 percent in the summer, he said.
Dunn said Wednesday his agency is offering discounted 55-gallon rain barrels to homeowners to help them capture and store rainwater from their home's roof gutter system to be used later to water flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees.
The plastic barrels are blue, but if a homeowner wants, they can be decorated. They are made from recycled plastics, he said.
"It only takes a quarter of an inch of rain run off from an average roof to fill a barrel," Dunn said. "One inch of rainfall on a 1,000-square-foot roof will yield about 600 gallons of water. By using a rain barrel, we can conserve this vital resource and still keep our plants and shrubs watered, even if we live in a community that has imposed restrictions on the outdoor use of water."
Dunn said commercially advertised rain barrels can sell for $100, and the Soil Conservation District is offering them for $85 pre-assembled. A do-it-yourself version is $65, and comes complete with detailed instructions and all of the attachments that are needed for assembly, Dunn said.
Dunn also displayed an adapter kit that attaches to a downspout to regulate the water flow once the barrel is full.
He said the faucet does not produce enough pressure to feed a garden hose, but could feed a soaker hose for a garden.
The barrels are designed with tight covers and faucets. The covers are designed to reduce access to the water by mosquitoes which need water to breed, Dunn said.
The water that is collected is also chlorine-free, he said.
He said that the concept is an old one, but being revised. County College of Morris is installing cisterns during a current construction project that will allow the school to trap rainwater.
The rain barrels may be ordered by calling the Soil Conservation District office at 973-285-2953 or by e-mailing the office at email@example.com.