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2013 Rain Barrel Giveaway Program

Please note that participation in this year’s Rain Barrel Giveaway Program is by invitation only. Only recipients of an Invitation to Reserve letter are eligible to register to receive a rain barrel. Rain Barrels will be distributed in an organized fashion by neighborhood over the next three years. We appreciate your patience.

Rain barrel

About the Rain Barrel Giveaway Program

The Rain Barrel Giveaway Program is an important part of our citywide green infrastructure initiative to create a greener, more sustainable city. It began as a pilot program in 2008 with the distribution of 250 rain barrels to homeowners in the Jamaica Bay watershed. The program was expanded in 2009 due to the public’s overwhelmingly positive response.

Green infrastructure systems, including rain barrels, improve New York City’s waterways by using more natural systems to manage runoff during rain storms. Instead of draining into the city’s sewer system, rainwater can be absorbed naturally into the soil at the source. Using a rain barrel to capture runoff is a great way to both save on your water bill and manage stormwater. During heavy storms, stormwater runoff can overwhelm the city’s sewer system, and in some cases this can cause street flooding.

How a Rain Barrel Works

A rain barrel captures runoff from your roof and stores it for future activities like watering a lawn or washing a car. The rain barrel connects directly to your existing downspout so that as soon as the barrel is full, excess rainwater drains normally into the city’s sewer system. A rain barrel can collect up to 60 gallons of rainwater at a time, thereby reducing localized street flooding and the demand on the city’s drinking water system during drought conditions. Each barrel weighs 20 lbs. empty and can weigh up to 500 lbs. when full.

Benefits of Using a Rain Barrel

  • Saves money. Some households devote almost 40% of their summer water consumption to irrigation needs. Using stored rainwater to water your lawn or garden can reduce your household water usage, which may help save you money on your water bill.
  • Improves harbor water quality. By diverting stormwater from the sewer system during rainy days, a rain barrel decreases stormwater run-off which carries pollutants from paved surfaces into groundwater and rivers.
  • Keeps your plants healthy. Plants prefer non-chlorinated organic rainwater—it is one of the best ways to keep your garden or lawn healthy all summer long.
  • Free car washes. Use stored rainwater to keep your car clean at no cost.
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable. Capturing and using your own rainwater is an easy step towards sustainability, lowers your carbon foot print, and teaches conservation.

How to Winterize your Rain Barrel

Follow the steps below before October 15 to properly prepare your rain barrel for the winter to protect it from cracking in freezing temperatures.

  • Step 1: Remove the spigot and drain the rain barrel completely. Store all of the parts inside the barrel so you can easily find them next season.
  • Step 2: Holding the bottom of the downspout diverter, grasp the end of the tubing and gently work the tube back and forth while pulling down until the tubing comes off. Disconnect the tubing on top of the barrel by gently twisting and pulling the tubing.
  • Step 3: Attach the plug to the tank outlet. One of the diverter’s tank outlets or “ports” will already have a plug on it. Verify that this plug is secure and cannot be pushed any further onto the port. Where the tubing was previously attached, push the diverter plug onto the tank outlet. Gently work the plug back and forth with one hand while holding the diverter in place with the other. Push the plug as far as possible onto the port so that it fits snugly.

Tips for Winter Storage

Do not allow water to collect in your barrel, ice forming inside the barrel can breakdown the molecules of the plastic and will disfigure or crack the barrel, rendering it useless or unstable. If you wish to leave you barrel outdoors, place a plastic bag over the top and secure the rain barrel by placing a cinder block on top or storing parts and garden equipment inside the barrel to weight it down. An empty barrel is light and when empty could be blown away by a strong wind. Consider placing the rain barrel under stairs or a deck, or relocate it to a corner where it will be less likely to blow away. Store the tubing in a garage or shed, preferably near the garden hose to make it easier to find next spring.

How to Clean and Maintain your Rain Barrel

It is recommended that you clean your rain barrel monthly during the collection season. Remove the lid and wipe down the inside of the barrel with a rag to remove any film that may have collected. Re-seal the lid.

At the end of the season, all you need to do is wipe down the inside of the barrel and rinse it out with warm water and soap. Your rain barrel is a UV-protected, food grade container, so it is made of a denser plastic than other barrels.

Should an odor develop while your rain barrel is in use, it is usually a sign that your gutters need cleaning. Gardeners generally love a little aroma because it means it is loaded with organic material, but if it is right outside your bedroom window you may want to add ¼ cup of vinegar, cedar oil, cedar chips or even ¼ cup of Clorox per full barrel. This will not hurt your plants.

Important Information

  • Ice in the rain barrel can cause cracks and other permanent damage. It is important to winterize your barrel prior to October 15.
  • Screw the lid on tightly to prevent children or animals form falling into the rain barrel.
  • Stored rainwater is not potable water and should not be
    • used for drinking, cooking, or bathing. Do not drink stored
    • rainwater and do not use the rain barrel to store drinking water.
  • Do not use stored rainwater for pets.

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