Local News

Yard Parched? N.C. State Students Offer Solution

Posted February 26, 2008
Updated October 21, 2011

—  As water conservation becomes increasing important across the Triangle, a group of N.C. State students are doing their part by educating. 

N.C. State's American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) students converted 10 250-gallon containers into rain barrels Tuesday night. The idea was to show others how to make their own rain collection device.

"Rain barrels," said Nicole Hill, ASABE president, "are a cost-effective alternative to tap water for watering yards and gardens. They're important during droughts, especially by helping reduce peak water demand during the summer, and they reduce peak volume and velocity of stormwater runoff to streams and storm sewer systems."

"Every time it rains, it's good for business,” said Dr. Bill Hunt, assistant professor and extension specialist at N.C. State University's Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and head of the department's stormwater engineering team.

Hunt and his students study stormwater runoff and how it can be used during the drought for irrigation or toilet-flushing.

They gave a step-by-step demonstration on assembling a rain barrel Tuesday at Weaver Labs on the university's campus.

"This is actually going to connect to your gutter, and this is actually going to connect to the top of the rain barrel,” Hill explained while demonstrating how the system works. “This (netting) is going to keep that (pine straw) out of your water, so it doesn't clog the spout down at the bottom. Also, it's going to keep the mosquitoes out."

In 2005, N.C. State student Matthew Jones developed software to let homeowners and businesses compute what size rain barrel they would need to collect stormwater runoff.

At first, the software didn’t get much attention, but as the drought lingers – interest is growing.

"It has been amazing," he said.

The rain barrels made Tuesday will be sold for $150 each.


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  • Fun Feb 27, 2008

    Pump is has "regulator" on it..controls the pressure,though electric motor keeps running.Thats the way it's designed. You have "squeeze nozzel" just like an ordinary hose. It's just a "raw water washdown system" used on a boat. Just put the input hose in trash can/barrel of water instead of a "thru hull" fitting. Will lift water 6.2 feet and output is 70psi. Works like a champ! Here's the link to Westmarine's online catalog: westmarine.com Search for "wash down" it's 3.4 gpm pump.Hope this helps.

  • Beachnut Feb 27, 2008

    Just for calibration, to provide a 1/4 acre patch of fescue with sufficient water (1" per week by most folks estimation) requires 6,788 gallons per week. That's a lot of rain barrels (and a lot of rain).

  • miketroll3572 Feb 27, 2008

    Good idea Fun. I just run that black pipe from the down spout toward the yard to keep it watered. Works like a champ, no need for a rain barrel.

  • WFrules Feb 27, 2008

    Fun: Does the pump shut off when there is pressure build up or no water left in the tank?

  • busyb97 Feb 27, 2008

    It may not rain much, but every little bit of rain, can contribute alot to a rain barrel. We have several of them. Off our small garden shed alone has 6 barrels. it only takes 1/2" of rain to fill them and that's only a 10x12 shed?! Put a few on a house and it takes even less...so even with little rain, you can get alot of water. They may not be drought-busting rains, but least you'll have water for those outside plants/chores you need.

    But did anyone notice how ugly those barrels are?? Mine aren't beauties, but they blend in a little with the shrubs/trees in my area. But giant white cubes would go over REAL well in a neighborhood or HOA. :) I applaud their efforts though!

  • SheriffTruman Feb 27, 2008

    How is having 100 gallons of water in a barrel a way to irrigate your yard as hte story says? Maybe a plant or 2, but without regular rain, you need way more storage capacity than that.

  • superman Feb 27, 2008

    I dont have gutters-- have an acre lot and have received very little rain. So what good is the rain barrel? I decided to buy some beach front property in Utah anyway with my extra money.

  • slackzac Feb 27, 2008

    you can buy an 80 gallon rain barrel from the Town of Wake Forest if you are a resident for $85. They will deliver it for you, too.

  • NCSUBAEstudent Feb 27, 2008

    The $150 rain barrel is probably a fundraiser for ASABE and I'm assuming proceeds will go to help building their quarter scale tractor for competition. I was in that organization when I was there for undergrad. Good Luck ASABE and BAE Dept!

  • Fun Feb 27, 2008

    $150.00 for a rain barrel is nuts. I got mine for $18.00. Go to Lowes buy an $18.00 33 gallon rubber trash can. Cut slats in the lid and place it upside down (concave)to filter trash out. Place under downspout. Go to West Marine buy a 12 volt "washdown pump" (3.4 gallons per minute) $119.00. Buy a 120v to 12v converter from Walmart for $15.00. Hook it all up. Ive been washing car and boat. You can wash you SUV 5 times with one trash can of water! Best of all cost recovery is only about 12 months!