Putting Rain Runoff to Good Use
Summer's hot, dry weather prompts water shortages in many communities. If your town regularly imposes a watering ban, keeping your family's backyard flower and vegetable gardens moist and viable could be a serious challenge.

Consider purchasing a rain barrel. These heavy-duty plastic or wood barrels catch rainwater and store it until you need it. A rain barrel allows for the practical reuse of water that otherwise would run down your driveway into a street drain, form puddles in your yard or feed into area streams.

Reusing rainwater doesn't just help the environment; it can lower your water bill and teach your kids about the importance of water preservation. The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that lawn and garden watering comprise nearly 40 percent of household water use during the summer, and that a rain barrel can save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months.

Because it's naturally soft and doesn't contain minerals, chlorine, fluoride or other chemicals that could interfere with plant growth, rainwater is a healthy way to water your garden. Some families even use it for drinking water, although this requires treatment with a filtration system.

Rain barrels work by catching the rainwater that flows off your roof into downspouts. Keep your roof clean of debris and potential contaminants to make sure the rainwater is as pure as possible. Newer rain barrels often have overflow ports to release water if there's too much in the barrel, as well as spigots where you can easily attach a hose for your watering. They range in cost from about $100 to $300.

For more information on how to purchase, install and use rain barrels, visit .

- Deirdre Wilson