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Rain Barrel Bulk Order Project

by Sam Pearson posted on May 01, 2008 08:33 PM last modified Mar 20, 2012 10:08 AM

Save water, save your garden, save some money... What's not to like?

The Local Action Network is working on assembling a bulk order of rain barrels in order to significantly increase the number of rain barrels in use in the area and raise the profile of this time-honored system of environmental husbandry.  Rain barrels are a good way of tapping into a free local resource, in this case, rainfall, allowing it to be used as needed, particularly for gardening.  They can cut individuals' water bills, reduce stress on the water supply during drought periods, provide for a handy water source on parts of a property without water lines in place, and, if properly used, reduce water in basements.  At a community level, they can help create a climate of responsible environmental stewardship and reduce "first flush," or the removal of contaminants from paved surfaces which sends them directly into waterways as part of surface runoff.  At a large scale, they, or any strategy for extensive water harvesting (green roofs, porous pavement, tree-planting programs, built-in cisterns) could theoretically even help cut back on flooding.  They are an essential part of permaculture principles -- waste nothing -- and a way of reestablishing the characteristics of the ecosystem once prevalent throughout Penn's Woods.  In our former forests, perhaps 2 or 3% of rain moved across the land as surface run-off, the rest was taken up by the plants, soaked up by the soil, and transmitted underground and through authentic watertable-connected streams.  Today, Pennsylvania has run-off quotients more in the range of 60-100% of rain water running off over the surface, with the consequent flooding, water quality impacts, and stream erosion and deposition problems.  For further information see

If you, as a Central Susquehanna Valley resident, would like one or more of these miraculous rain barrels, your current options include,

  • building your own, which has certain drawbacks, including ease of cleaning for the finished product and aesthetics/curb appeal;
  • purchasing a premade one from a local store, which limits you to expensive, mostly ornamental models which don't hold all that much water to begin with; or
  • buying one online, in which case you get your choice of features, but have to pay high retail prices and substantial shipping.

As an alternative, the Local Action Network has found a medium range barrel, with high capacity, basic aesthetic appeal (available unpainted black, or painted brown, grey, or bright green), recycled content and critical functional features like removable top for cleaning and effective screens to prevent mosquito nesting.  We have made arrangements to obtain a shipment of 100 barrels to our area at cost (~$48) plus shipping ($8/barrel, subject to confirmation since it’s an old quote and as we all know fuel prices are up).  They are made by the Great American Rain Barrel Company (, which also imports foods like olives and capers and recycles the shipping barrels in this way.  Typically, to buy a rain barrel, of this design or most others, it would cost over $200.  Even to build your own typically costs between $30 and $50, so this arrangement seems to make a lot of sense.

Once you have a barrel of any sort in hand there are some additional expenses associated with installation.  These can include labor, one or several diverters from your downspouts, or additional connectors should you want to attach several barrels in series, as well as other basics like firm footing, possible tie-backs, cutting downspouts, etc.

On the basis of an informal marketing effort to date, we have so far managed to reach a total order of between 70 and 80 barrels (subject to confirmation).  One of the barriers we've found is that people have a hard time visualizing what we're suggesting.  So now we’re offering a sample barrel, workshops for master gardeners, and links to images online (also available in brown, grey or unpainted black).

How many do you need?  That depends on your house, yard, current gutter/downspout arrangement and need/interest in free water for your garden.  A safe answer is at least one to get into the swing of things.  To assess how much water you are likely to get from the roof areas you have in mind, check for volume calculation guidelines at

Once we reach the bulk order cutoff, we will contact everyone on the list and reconfirm their interest; order will not be placed until payment has been received from all parties.  Delivery will take 4 to 6 weeks from time of order.  We hope to receive delivery in the Lewisburg area and may also have a Columbia County dropoff.

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