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How to Collect and Store Rainwater
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The last decade produced some of the hottest weather ever recorded. With more new houses being fitted with water meters, collecting and storing rainwater makes good gardening sense from every point of view. Hose pipe bans are a regular occurrence in many parts of the country. Check with your water supplier - many have leaflets designed to help gardeners conserve and recycle water.
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you will need
Water butt; piping; frost-proof material for wrapping around pipes.
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Your house roof is an important source of rainwater. You can collect this most efficiently into a rainwater butt. These come in all shapes and sizes, holding different volumes of water. Some are attractive in their own right or can be disguised if you have a very small plot. The size you'll need will depend on your roof size and the amount of water that drains from it. Many gardens may need more than one. Rainwater is fed into a butt via a downpipe diverter. These fit onto your drain pipe. You can get various types - some are automatic and will divert overflow amounts back down the drainpipe. Special filters are available to keep leaves and dirt form clogging your rainwater diverter. Debris in water butts can lead to a build up of algae which can be harmful to your plants. Water can be drawn off most simply using a tap at the bottom, or by lifting the lid and dipping a watering can into the butt. Taps can be bought separately if your container does not come with one built-in.
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For large quantities of stored rainwater, or where you plan to irrigate areas of your garden (veg plots etc) with collected water, a submersible pump can be used. These are attached to the lid of the butt and will pump water out into a hose pipe outlet for you to use. You'll need to install a low level cut-off float switch in your water butt if you use a pump. This will activate when the water level drops, preventing your pump from running dry and getting damaged.
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Water butts should be cleaned out every one to two years, depending on the conditions in your garden. If you have a filter to keep debris out, this job will need doing less often. Empty the butt down to the tap hole. Disconnect from your drainpipe. Swoosh the remaining water around to loosen any sediment at the bottom. Empty the mixture out and reconnect to the downpipe. Similarly, any non custom made butt or barrel used for rainwater should be clean. They should never have been used for noxious liquids such as oils, diesel, chemicals. Oak barrels which previously held whisky, sherry or wine are fine!
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An old stocking makes a good temporary downpipe filter. Fit it on the end of your drainpipe. It will need regular cleaning.
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Your water butt should be frost proof. If heavy frosts are forecast, drop a couple of tennis balls into the water. These will prevent any expansion due to ice formation.
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Choose a handy position for your water butt
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Fit the downpipe into the water butt
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Raise the butt off the ground for easy access

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