ANDERSON — When companies in the food industry are finished with a 50-gallon barrel they use to store and ship perishable items, Leslie White knows just what to do with it. Rather than see it shipped off to a landfill, she outfits the barrel to be an instrument of conservation.
“I drill holes in them, add fittings and valves, cut and install a screen for the lid and create a rain barrel,” said White, owner of Lots of Water Rain Barrels and conservation coordinator for the Fall Creek Watershed Partnership. “Of course, first I wash them out from the smell. The smell of whatever food was bottled up inside can be pretty bad.”
These barrels catch rainwater from the downspout of homes, barns or sheds to provide water for plants, flowers and gardens.
“I started using rain barrels when I moved to Florida and we had some water shortages,” said Laura Smith, owner of Asparagus Annie’s, selling home-grown vegetables, berries, eggs and goat’s milk soap at farmer’s markets. “All the water coming off the roof was going into the storm drains and I thought: ‘Why not capture it and use it to a better purpose?’ Water is a non-renewable resource and we waste a lot of it without even thinking about it.”
Smith has purchased 21 rain barrels from White for use throughout her small farm, where she grows vegetables and berries as well as raises chickens, goats and horses.
Along the back of one pole barn are nine barrels connected to one another. The downspout is connected to the first barrel, but the water keeps moving through the system until all of them are filled. When the garden needs a drink, a pump delivers the water through a hose that can be directed to the thirsty plants.