Be one with the force. Become a moisture farmer

A rain barrel can supplement your outdoor watering and save you money. The TAP team shows you how to build one.

May 4, 2017 | By: Kim Unger
promo image from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
In “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” research scientist Galen Erso hides out on a moisture farm on the hydrated planet of Lah’mu.
Photo credit: Star Wars: TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd.

Life on Tatooine’s dry desert required moisture farms for survival. In “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the movie opens on Lah’mu, a lush, overcast planet with an ocean and a field of moisture vaporators.

It may not make sense in the “Star Wars” universe to farm moisture on a planet that seems to be abundant in moisture, but here’s another way of looking at it:

The vaporators are actually water collection and distribution systems.

Simply put, they are rain barrels.

So if you’re into “Star Wars,” or just care about water, you should feel good knowing that today, you can become a moisture farmer too, thanks to passage of an April 2016 law that allows Colorado residents to collect and use rain water. Coloradans can use up to two 55-gallon rain barrels per household.

Moisture farming in Colorado isn’t as complex as it is on Tatooine. In fact, with some basic supplies and a few short steps, you can have yourself a functioning rain barrel just in time to catch some spring rain.

To demonstrate just how easy this is, I asked my fellow TAP writers to help me assemble a rain barrel. Check it out!

 

DIY rain barrel project:

Supplies:

55-gal plastic drum or trash can

Do-it-yourself rain barrel kit (available at most local hardware stores and online retailers)

Tools:

Drill

Measuring tape

Pencil

Scissors

Phillips screwdriver

Level

Safety glasses and gloves

Installing the spigot:

  • Locate the front of the barrel and measure 2-1/2 inches from the bottom; mark with pencil. Drill a hole using a 1-1/4-inch hole saw.
  • Insert the threaded rubber seal.
  • Thread the spigot into the seal until the spigot sits against the seal and the outlet is pointing down.

Installing the inlet:

  • Determine which side of the barrel you need the connection. Then mark 3 inches from the rim of the container. Drill a hole using a 1-1/2-inch hole saw.
  • Insert the threaded rubber seal.

Installing the downspout diverter:

    • Place your barrel in its final position before proceeding to the installation of the downspout diverter. If you are placing your rain barrel on an elevated base, this needs to be in place prior to measurement.
    • The location of the downspout hole will depend on the type of container. If it is a sealed container, the downspout hole can be marked level with the rim of the container. If the container has a lid, the downspout hole should be marked 2-1/2 inches below the rim of the container. Use a level to mark a reference line on the downspout and check measurements before cutting. This step will ensure proper flow into the barrel.
    • If you have a 2-by-3-inch downspout, drill a hole in the downspout with a 2-1/8 inch hole saw, aligning the center of the bit with the center mark made on the downspout.
    • If you have a 3-by-4-inch downspout, drill a hole on the narrow side with a 2-1/8 inch hole saw, aligning the center of the bit with the center mark on the downspout.
    • Insert the diverter into the hole and attach with two self-tapping screws.
    • Attach the fill hose, pressing until it is flush against the diverter.

Connecting the hose to the barrel:

  • Cut the hose on the flat cuffs to fit the required length. Press the hose into the inlet seal until the corrugated section of the hose is flush with the seal.
  • Attach the “Do Not Drink” sticker included with the kit.

You are now ready to collect rain.

 

But wait — don’t just set it and forget it

Colorado moisture farming is more than just collecting rain and watering a garden. The system needs periodic maintenance to keep it running safely.

Routinely inspect your barrel and diverter hose and check for debris, insect activity or algae growth. Empty the barrel monthly and clean with bleach and water.

If your barrel has any open entry points, be sure to cover these with window screening material to keep mosquitos out.

And finally, remember that the rain water in your barrel traveled along your roof, gutters and downspout, picking up all kinds of contaminants along the way. The water is not safe to drink for you, your kids or your pets.

May the Fourth be with you.

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