Skip to content

Rainy Day Lesson

2013 June 10

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Dave Deegan

Like many New Englanders, we’ve been really busy lately with our garden. The warm growing months are so fleeting here that you have to be ready the minute you can plant veggies and herbs to harvest some good food later in the summer.

It’s been even more hectic this year, because my wife and I acted on our carefully-developed plans of long-overdue landscaping in our yard. But as any homeowner can tell you, there usually is no simple plan. If you do this, then it triggers that. And that. And something else.

As we thought about how we wanted our yard to be, we knew we needed to address some drainage issues: gutters were draining directly onto a walkway, and in the winter that’s a recipe for dangerous slick ice. So we excavated a channel for the gutter to drain under the walkway, leading into a dry well. Now the water will slowly infiltrate into the earth without turning into mud or ice where we need to walk.

We have another area nearby, where a gutter channels rainwater from our garage, and we thought, “this is a great spot for a rain barrel!”

Diverting rain by collecting it in a rain barrel, or channeling into a dry well (or a rain garden) has a lot of advantages besides our immediate need to address extra runoff in our garden. Stormwater runoff can collect a lot of bad stuff, especially in urban areas with lots of pavement and other hard impermeable surfaces. As water runs off roofs, parking lots and roads, it collects all the trace residues of chemicals, nutrients, silt and debris that have accumulated, and swiftly deposits it all in the nearest storm sewer, and from there it often goes directly into nearby streams, ponds or another water body. In other words, pollution.

It’s amazing how quickly our 55 gallon rain barrel fills up, just waiting for a dry spell when we need to water our garden. It’s been raining steadily for about the past six hours – not even pouring hard – and the rain barrel is full. That’s just one section of roof and gutter. It makes me realize how much water comes down in a typical rainstorm, and how much of a difference our household decisions can make to help solve a problem.

Find more New England resources on how to “Soak Up the Rain.”

More Green infrastructure solutions to stormwater

About the author:  Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not digging rocks out of his garden, he loves being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Colorado Gardener permalink
    June 10, 2013

    Not all States allow rain barrels. Be careful.

  2. Dave permalink
    June 11, 2013

    Thanks @ColoradoGardener – that’s a very good point and one I was not previously aware of. For anyone trying to find more info about specific state requirements regarding rainwater harvesting, here’s a link that appears to have reasonably up-to-date information from the National Conference of State Legislatures ( ).

  3. Richard Windsor permalink
    June 14, 2013

    Digging rocks in his garden? I hope he filed the necessary Construction General Permit and NOI with his office. (snicker)

  4. Chris Maxwell-Gaines permalink
    June 18, 2013

    It is pretty amazing just how much rainwater you can collect. Many of our customers started with rain barrels but after realizing just how much rain they are missing out with their rain barrels, they want to install a larger cistern. The easy rule-of-thumb for collection potential is 1″ of rain on 1,000 sf of roof will provide 623 gallons of rainwater.

    Again rain barrels are great starter projects but I want people to explore their other options by analyzing their rainwater collection potential and matching it with an appropriate sized cistern.

    You can learn more about the do’s and don’ts of rainwater collection at

    Thanks for the post!

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS