Automated Rain Barrels
RiverSides provides householders with automated rain barrels so stormwater can be simply and efficiently diverted for household use and toward natural, ground filtration.
Without such diversion stormwater can flood basements and streets, overwhelm sewer systems, and push pollution directly into our rivers and streams. Rain barrels simply relieve the costs of such events. They also make the valuable resource of free water easily available in times of drought.
RiverSides combines the ages-old technology of rainwater capture with new technology to allow barrels to be monitored and emptied remotely. We establish networks of these rain barrels strategically in neighbourhoods. (See photo tour below for our first example.) We install the barrels; instruct the participants on their use; and then demonstrate, test, and finetune the rain barrels’ optimal use.
This innovative green infrastructure is community-based, preventive stormwater management. It’s a cost-effective solution to the expensive and damaging problems faced by flood-vulnerable communities. Weather events are brought into better balance with what urban environments and overwhelmed sewers can handle.
This photo tour will introduce you to the RainCAP rain barrel system, including
- its installation and parts,
- some examples of the Toronto pilot-project barrels successfully installed and currently in use, and
- the technology that allows you, on your home computer, to monitor and control rainwater diversion for your own household’s use.
(The installations shown here were part of the RiverSides 2016 pilot project.)
We start by helping you choose the best spot for your RainCAP rain barrel.
Once a suitable location by the house or in the yard is chosen, the installer levels the ground with a layer of gravel.
A patio stone provides a solid base.
Here you can see a new rain barrel sitting next to the old eavestrough downspout. The old spout drained below grade directly into the city sewer system — a costly waste of usable water.
Once the barrel is sitting securely, some basic parts are attached
to divert water away from the sewer and into the barrel.
There’s the diverter box (being installed here by Michael Albanese from Avesi Stormwater and Landscape Solutions). The diverter box is connected with the eavestrough’s downspout by modifications that will vary with each home. Rainwater will now flow into the barrel instead of the sewer.
A storm funnel with a perforated end maximizes flow into the barrel during particularly heavy rainfalls. One end fits snugly into the diverter box. The other is attached …
… either to a flexible extender pipe …
… or to the spout itself.
The manual valve on the side of the diverter box allows you to divert rainwater inflow either to the barrel or directly to your garden.
A fine-mesh sleeve ensures debris won’t clog the rain barrel.
(Here, Kevin Mercer, CEO of RainGrid and inventor of the automated rain barrel system, shows Katie Harper, from Project Neutral, and young pilot project participant how it all works.)
The rain barrel also has technical components. These connect your rain barrel to the internet, allowing you to decide, based on your household needs and predicted rainfall, how to control the outflow of rainwater from the barrel and into your garden — all from a virtual dashboard on your home computer.
(Quite handy and very cool!)
There’s a main controller box that provides communication between your rain barrel and computer.
A small solar panel provides back-up for the controller’s battery.
An automated solenoid valve at the bottom of the barrel controls the outflow. (The dark hose here runs from the valve to the garden.)
These final couple of pictures provide a quick look at some of the information and tools you can access on your home computer through your RainCAP dashboard. Being able to “see inside” the barrel, you can decide when and by how much to empty it.
This screen shot shows a dashboard page that helps you decide the best time to drain the rain barrel.
On the left is the capacity — here, the barrel is 90% full of rainwater. On the right is a five-day rain forecast as well as the planned drainage of the rain barrel. Along the bottom you can see various data on how much rainwater has been diverted, and how.
Here’s another dashboard page, showing real-time rainwater diversion graphs.
The vertical axes show the barrel’s fullness, both in percentage terms (on the left) and in litres (on the right). The horizontal axis marks the date and time of the barrel’s replenishment and drainage.
As you can see in this sample, the barrel was emptied completely, starting late on the afternoon of August 15, in anticipation of a heavy rainfall. By early the next morning, August 16, the barrel was nearly full again!