If you want to save money on your water bill and provide your plants with cleaner water, getting a rain barrel might be the perfect addition for your home.
Rain barrels are containers used to collect and store rain water, said Donna Stuckert, public relations coordinator for Recycling & Waste Reduction District of Porter County.
They have several benefits, from providing free water for house plants and gardens, to offering cleaner water free of many pollutants.
"It provides the best water to use for your plants because it doesn't have chlorine, fluoride, sodium and water softeners that are bad for plants, beneficial organisms and pollinators like bees," Stuckert said.
Placed under any downspout, the rain barrel minimizes the amount of water that goes in drainage systems - providing a positive environmental impact.
"When we reduce the water that goes into our storm sewers, we help reduce run off that can carry chemicals and pollutants into our lakes and streams," she said.
Using rain barrels also are a great way to save money.
According to the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the average resident uses 40 percent of household water in the yard during the summer.
Having a rain barrel can be helpful during dry summer months when cities issue water conservation alerts, according to the organization. In fact, a rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during those peak summer months.
Stuckert adds using a rain barrel also sets a good example for younger generations.
"A benefit is becoming a role model for your kids in conserving natural resources," she said.
Rain barrels are not a modern-day invention. Collecting rainwater has been a practice that stretches back thousands of years.
However, more advanced systems now include items such as pumps and flow controls. Most also include a screen on top to keep out mosquitoes - reducing fears of standing water during summer months when West Nile virus is a concern.
"If not, it's best to use the water in between storms so they don't have time to breed," Stuckert said.
Rain barrels can be purchased at garden and home improvement stores, but check with your specific community, which may provide resources where rain barrels may be purchased at a reduced cost. The state of Indiana also provides links to local Solid Waste Management Districts through its website, in.gov/idem/files/swmd/map.html.
Stuckert says rain barrels range in price, though most typically start at about $50.