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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.


In addition to the Salsa Rain Barrel, the kit includes the DiverterPro, a length of connector hose, the spigot, and adaptors for smaller-sized downspouts.


Place the barrel near a downspout that is out of the way of the normal functions of the house, like a side yard, where it won’t be disturbed. We are using the concrete blocks to raise up the barrel so larger buckets can be used to drain out the collected water.


On a solid base of gravel, position the blocks so that they are completely level, front to back, and that they are wide enough to support the entire weight of a barrel full of 58 gallons of water (roughly 465 pounds). The barrel needs to be close enough to the house and between 9 and 36 inches away from the downspout.


Twist in and tighten with a strap wrench (or rubber-clad pliers) the spigot. It has a rubber gasket, so it doesn’t need to be torqued down too tightly. The spigot itself turns as well, and it is threaded to fit a standard size hose.


Depending on which side your barrel will sit in relation to the downspout, drill a 1-inch hole in the side of the barrel closest to the downspout. There is a raised notch on the barrel that shows exactly where you should drill.


The hose connector adaptor simply hand tightens with this nut on the inside of the barrel. It has a rubber gasket to prevent leaks, and doesn’t need to be too tight.


Place the level on the top of the rain barrel (without the lid) so it extends over the downspout. While maintaining it level, draw a line across the spout on the bottom of the level. Note: we ended up removing the entire downspout to make the cuts easier, but this is only an option. It can be cut while still attached to the hose.


For a 2 x 3-inch downspout, measure up from the original line 3.5 inches and draw a line. From that second line, measure down 10.25 inches and draw another line. For a 3 x 4-inch downspout, measure up from the original line 2.25 inches and draw a line. From that second line, measure down 7.75 inches and draw another line.


With a hacksaw, cut the second and third lines to remove the 10.25- inch section of 2 x 3-inch section of the downspout (or the 7.75-inch section if your downspout is 3 x 4 inches).


Since our downspouts are 2 x 3 inches, we fitted the adapters onto the top and bottom of the DiverterPro unit. If your downspouts are larger, you won’t need the adapters. The flush side goes against the rear of the unit.


While on the ground, we screwed the unit to the lower part of the downspout, and reattached the upper part of the downspout to the gutter.


We then slipped the DiverterPro onto the upper part of the downspout and screwed it in.


The connector hose was too long, so we cut it to fit with wire cutters.


The hose fits on the drain port on the side of the DiverterPro (there is one on each side, so leave the one you are not using capped). The longer your hose is, the more weight it will have to support. We suggest using a hose clamp to keep it secured.


The hose needs to be as level as possible. This keeps the barrel from overflowing. As soon as it is full, water will no longer feed through the hose. The plastic housing cap is clear so you can periodically check on the catch basin for debris.


Editors Note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.