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TVA River Neighbors

Save water: Use a rain barrel

An ancient idea is making a comeback. More and more homeowners are collecting rainwater in rain barrels to reduce their water bills and protect this precious resource.

Historical records show that rainwater was collected in simple clay containers as far back as 2,000 years ago—and, according to Melinda Watson, a water quality specialist on TVA’s Watts Bar-Clinch Watershed Team—the idea is catching on again. “The ongoing drought has helped to raise awareness of the importance of conserving water, and people are looking for ways to reduce their consumption. Since 30 to 40 percent of a home’s summer water bill can go for outdoor use, a rain barrel can be part of the solution.”

Water collected in rain barrels isn’t drinkable, but it’s perfect for lawns and gardens and for use in ponds and birdbaths. Rainwater is naturally soft and free of minerals, chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals, so plants thrive on it. It can be used for washing cars, decks, and windows, too.

Most people are surprised at how much water they collect, says Watson. “During a one-inch rain, more than 700 gallons of water will run off the average roof. That’s enough water to take 17 baths or 58 showers.”

You can buy a rain barrel at many home and garden supply stores or at sites on the Internet. Easy-to-follow instructions for building your own rain barrel are available from

Water conservation with an artistic flair

The Knoxville Water Quality Forum recently sponsored an event to raise awareness about water conservation and water pollution. Artisans and water-quality supporters in Knox County in east Tennessee were encouraged to paint and decorate 55-gallon rain barrels as part of the “Rainy Day Brush-Off.” 

photo of rain barrel

School teacher and artist Laura Bledsoe painted this rain barrel as part of the Knoxville Water Quality Forum’s “Rainy Day Brush-Off” event.

Twenty-seven painted rain barrels were displayed at locations in Knoxville and Knox County and are currently being auctioned on eBay, with proceeds supporting other water-quality initiatives.

The Water Quality forum is a consortium of agencies, organizations, and individuals that includes Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville and Knox County stormwater departments, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and some area utility districts.













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