Save the Rainy Day

Save the Rainy Day

Food Grade Barrel converted to rain barrel

Rain Barrel made from food grade container.

A great way to save money on your water bill and reduce the amount of water withdrawn from the aquifer is to use a rain barrel.  The water savings from using stored rainwater rather than municipal or well water can be substantial over a period of time.  A rain barrel may not provide all the water needed to sustain all your plants, but it can certainly benefit some houseplants or even an entire vegetable garden. If you currently have a standard irrigation system, you may be able to turn off the sprinkler zones that are in flower beds and use stored rainwater instead.

Typically, the rain barrel is connected to the gutter downspout of the house.  For a general calculation, you can collect about a half-gallon of water per square foot of roof area during a 1 inch rainfall.  A typical ½ inch rainfall event will fill a 50-55 gallon barrel.  Multiple rain barrels can be linked together with PVC or flexible hose to increase storage capabilities.  However, with a screen modification on the lid, the rain barrel can be located anywhere in order to collect open rain fall.  It will take a lot longer to fill, but may be more practical if the area you want to water is a good distance from the house.

Now is the time to prepare for the long, hot season to come.  If you want to learn more, please join the Walton County Environmental Department and UF/IFAS at the Walton County Extension office on Monday, March 7, 2022 for an educational lecture on stormwater and demonstration on how to build a rain barrel.  The first 20 participants may also sign up to build a take-home rain barrel.  The program begins at 1:00 pm and is free to the public. Those interested in assembling a ready-to-go rain barrel will need to pay $35.  Custom assembly will begin at 3:30 p.m.  Please contact the Walton County Extension office to register.  850-892-8172.

Learning from the Floods

Learning from the Floods

Just over a year ago, southwest Alabama and northwest Florida experienced a devastating storm that left hundreds without access to their homes and businesses, flooded out and stranded by a hurricane-force storm that didn’t come with the luxury of a week’s warning. Rainfall records in Pensacola go back to 1879, and the April 29-30 storm broke them all, estimating just over 20 inches over the two days. Not only was the rainfall heavy, but the torrent was high in both velocity and volume—at one point, a mind-boggling 5.68 inches fell in the span of one hour. That’s half the annual rainfall of many cities in California and Texas!

gas geysers

A residential street in Pensacola became a raging river a year ago during the torrential floods, putting dozens of people out of their homes. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson UF/IFAS Extension.

With every dark storm cloud comes a silver lining, though, and just like the millions pumped into our regional economy from oil spill-related fines, the April 2014 floods have awakened a “greener” ethic among many residents, business owners, and politicians. According to a study just released by an environmental consulting firm, when asked about infrastructure changes and improvements to flooding and stormwater, attendees at community meetings overwhelmingly preferred “low impact” solutions such as expanded green space, cisterns, rain gardens, and stream restoration to “hard” structures such as bigger underground pipes and more pumps. While traditional engineering infrastructure is still crucial to a community that must maintain roads, stormwater ponds, and buildings, I find it encouraging that residents are interested in trying different techniques that have proven successful both here and in other parts of the world.

rain barrel

The new Langley Bell 4-H Center has four large rain barrels around the building, used to collect roof runoff for landscape design. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson UF/IFAS Extension.

So, how does one prepare for unexpected rain and floods? The first thing is to realize that northwest Florida receives the most annual rainfall (over 60”) of any region of the state, and sometimes it seems to come down all at once.  Preparing landscapes to handle both frequent and heavy rains is an important place to start.  This article will begin a series of articles delving into those “low-impact” stormwater management techniques that can help lessen the impact of the intense storms we experience here in northwest Florida. Many of these practices, such as creating mulch pathways, harvesting rainwater, and installing shoreline vegetative buffers, can be implemented by individual homeowners and help reduce the impact of flooding on a neighborhood and city-wide level

Rain Barrel Workshop October 12th Washington County

Does Your Garden Irrigation Inflate Your Water Bill?


Image Credit: UF / IFAS

Image Credit: UF / IFAS


Flush High Irrigation Bills Down The Drain !

  • Build A Rain Barrel
  • Find Out How at our Workshop 
  • Saturday October 12th 2013  9am-12pm
  • Location: Washington County Ag Center 1424 Jackson Ave
  •  UF / IFAS Washington County Extension 1424 Jackson Ave. Chipley, FL. East Wing Conference Room


You will engage in hands on construction of a rain barrel to take home and use to water your garden. All supplies will be furnished by the UF / IFAS Washington County Extension Master Gardeners at a cost of only $40.00 per person / barrel ! $10.00 to audit without barrel.

Call Matt or Cynthia at the Washington County Extension Office to

register at 850-638-6180 or email Matt at


Master Gardner  Advanced Training CEU’s offered with approval of your County  Extension Agent


2013 Fall Rainbarrel Workshop Flyer

Rain Barrels – A Summer Irrigation Option

Rain Barrels – A Summer Irrigation Option

Floridians use more water than any other state for irrigation, and a typical home sprinkler system can account for half of the cost and water use in a household during the summer.

One of the most convenient and efficient ways to conserve water is to install a rain barrel.  Modern rain barrels involve ancient technology that relies simply on gravity, allowing stormwater to run from a rooftop into a gutter.  The gutter funnels water into a plastic food-grade barrel or other container fitted with screen to keep out debris and insects.  Most rain barrels also have an overflow device near the top (for heavy storms that might fill the barrel) and a spigot at the bottom for filling a watering can or attaching a hose.  Keep in mind the barrels do not have a lot of pressure and cannot irrigate an entire lawn, but are ideal for vegetable gardens and container plants. Rain barrels vary widely in design, but they can be painted to add a decorative touch, or easily screened behind a shrub.

The first rain barrel I made was painted to look like a ladybug

Building a rain barrel is a fun summer project for the whole family!

In addition to conserving water, rain barrels can be an effective means of reducing stormwater pollution.  During a typical 1” rainstorm, an average home’s roof can yield 600 gallons of rainwater runoff that would normally flow downstream, picking up oils, greases, bacteria, trash, and pesticides along the way that end up in our water bodies.   These pollutants eventually flow downstream to our creeks, bayous, and bays, contributing to non-point source pollution. Rain barrels interrupt that process by collecting stormwater runoff before it has a chance to pick up pollutants.

If you are interested in learning more about rain barrels or how to build your own, contact your local County Extension Office.  Escambia County Extension will be hosting two rain barrel workshops this summer, the first on Friday, July 12 and the second on Saturday, August 3.  There is a $42 charge for those wishing to build their own rain barrel after the workshop—all supplies and tools will be provided.  To register for the full workshop, go online to the event registration website.

It is free to attend and hear the talk without building a barrel, but please reserve a spot by using the contact information below.