Rain barrel owners of the Pacific NW, what do you do in the winter?
October 11, 2017 12:58 PM   Subscribe

I live in Seattle and have a rain barrel. It's really useful in the summer, but what do I do in the winter?

We put a rain barrel under one of the gutters at our house last spring, and it's been fantastic for outdoor water needs like the garden. But now we're entering the seasons where it rains every day and we're not growing much.

If you're in a similar climate, what do you do with all that water in the late fall and winter? We're unlikely to do anything that requires heating it up, but what do you do that doesn't?
posted by centrifugal to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If possible, it's helpful to the city to use rainbarrels in the winter to slow down stormwater surges. Let them fill quickly and drain slowly. Especially true if the downspout you're diverting goes into the combined sewer, which they're mostly supposed to but many don't.

If your drainage isn't good enough to handle a barrel's concentrated output, just drain them for the winter (to keep the fittings from cracking when it freezes).
posted by clew at 1:14 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]

I keep my barrels in "drain mode" which means they don't collect any water in winter. The water just flows out a pipe near the bottom where I have a long hose attached that carries the water out to the alley.
posted by oxisos at 2:05 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]

The rain barrel care .pdf linked by Seattle.gov says, "In the winter when rains are heaviest, you may want to reconnect your downspouts, or use a downspout adapter (described above), to send the heaviest flows back into your drainage system." Down here in the Bay Area, where freezes aren't an issue, we keep collecting water all winter. The barrel stays very full most of the time, but we have an adapter that collects overflow and diverts it to our usual drainage system.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:44 PM on October 11

I live in Oregon, and my rain barrels attach to the downspouts via a diverter-style adaptor that lets water keep flowing down the downspout when the barrel is full. During the winter months, when freezing is potentially an issue, I disconnect those and cover up the hole in the downspout with a plug.

/me makes a note that it's going to be time to do that here pretty soon...
posted by genehack at 11:13 PM on October 11

The City of Seattle has pages of rainwater information on this (gardening safety! use of mulch! rainwater in indoors plumbing fixtures!).
posted by clew at 3:10 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

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