In 1860, California had such a severe drought that it killed thousands of head of cattle, dried up countless acres of crops, and brought down the wealthiest generation of Californians at the time, the Spanish Rancheros. The original California dons went broke, lost their power and land because of the lack of a little rain.
Fast forward 150 years, and Californians are in a very similar predicament. With just about 5 inches of rain, the state has only seen a fraction of its normal total rainfall of 23.65 inches. Other parts of the country has seen their fair share of drought conditions over the years, but when it does rain, most of it is lost. The roof of your house is a huge rain collector, like a giant tarp. It runs into the gutter and funnels down the spouts; the normal course of all that water just goes back down the drain, either swept out to the ocean (in coastal big cities) or it soaks back into the ground (in rural areas). Saving some of that water for when it is needed in the dry months has become paramount.
As Finland’s oldest company (founded in 1649), Fiskars is a global supplier of products for the home, garden, and outdoors, employing 4,100 people in 20 countries. The 58-gallon Salsa rain barrel is made in the U.S. of UV-treated polyethylene designed to withstand the elements and provide years of maintenance free service. It is 40 inches high and roughly 25 inches round, but slightly flattened at the rear to fit up against the wall. It is connected to the Diverter Pro rainwater capturing system via the connector hose, which only allows in the rainwater and filters out the debris. On the inside of the Diverter Pro is a catch basin with a plastic mesh top. Rainwater enters the unit from the top and goes through this mesh, which captures any leaves or other debris that may have washed off the roof or down the gutters. Water fills up the catch basin and starts to pour into the rain barrel. When the barrel is full, water will overflow the plastic mesh and continue down the downspout.
Caution: the water collected in the barrel system is only for the lawn and garden plants. People and/or animals should not drink from the barrel, nor should the water be used for cooking or washing without being properly treated. Asphalt roofing shingles contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, which is a known carcinogen, and the rainwater that flows from it may also contain toxic elements, such as lead and arsenic.
Installation only takes about an hour and requires the very basic of tools: hack saw, drill, screwdriver, strap wrench, tape measure, level, cutting shears, and pen.
Editors Note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.