Rain barrels - keeping water from stagnating

hollyk(5A or 5B)September 1, 2002

Now that we have some makeshift rain barrels set up, we've gotten rain and haven't had to empty the rain barrels on our plants (Murphy's Law!). I have the water covered with lids but... will it get stagnant? Any tips on how to store the water for several weeks?

I've read mixed info. Some say to add 1/4 c. bleach to it every few days, as that'll evaporate daily and won't hurt the plants. Some say to put a goldfish or 2 in the barrels, but what if there isn't enough algae in there for them to eat?

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glycera(z7a VA)

Gosh, I just let my water sit in the barrel until I use it. Not that it's had a chance to sit very long this season! But in the good old days when used to rain once in a while, water would stay in the rain barrel for months without mine worrying about it (except to put in a piece of mosquito dunk once in a while). I've never had a problem using "old" water.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2002 at 1:08PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

As long as there is no organic matter in the water, it will not become stagnant. Keeping it covered (i.e., dark) will prevent algae growth, as well as keep out any organic matter (twigs, leaves, insects, etc.) that might decompose.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2002 at 1:46PM
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I must disagree with Johnnieb's reply. Any and all rain water contains organic matter - the only water that does not is distilled water that is in an air-free container. Think of this, the rain drop forms around a speck of dust, it falls, collecting dust particles from the air. It hits the roof, which is covered in dust, dirt, guano, etc, runs down the roof into the gutter, which has leaves etc, as well as bird and squirrel waste in them, flows over under and around all that and then goes into the rain barrel. Then it sits. Water that is not being oxgenated by movement such as a water fall, fountain or replenishment WILL stagnate. Rain water is full of organisms that will die from lack of oxygen. Fish may eat the mosquito larvae but will add fishy waste to the container. if you intend to use the water for plants DO NOT ADD CHLORINE! A little vinegar will retard bacteria growth but again, be careful. The best idea is to use the water - even if the sky is gray and drizzely - as soon as possible. On the farm, we used a barrel a day with washing, bathing etc.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2002 at 11:29AM
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hollyk(5A or 5B)

Thanks for all your replies. I, too, wondered about the organic matter coming off the roof, as I've seen quite a few leaf particles floating in it. I guess we'd better use it soon but they're predicting rain again! Go figure!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2002 at 10:17PM
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abgardeneer(Z3, Calgary)

Hmm... why does it matter whether water is "stagnant" or not for watering plants? Do they care? Isn't the soil already full of bacteria and fungus and organisms? Why would it matter if there's more in the water? Aren't they simply going to be broken down in the soil? Actually, our observation is that standing water quickly forms a rather interesting and healthy little ecosystem, full of daphnia and other small organisms. This happens particularly quickly where the trough gets some sunshine. (You may not want to drink this water, but that does not make it "unhealthy" water in any natural sense!) A water trough provides a great source of live food for pond fish. And, providing that there are an appropriate number of fish in the container and that the amount of organic material does not overwhelm the system's ability to use it up (i.e. the fish are not overfed, for example), a balanced system is maintained with filtration or aeration. Sounds like a lot of worrying over nothing really. Lori

    Bookmark   September 6, 2002 at 11:23PM
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abgardeneer(Z3, Calgary)

Oops, typo - meant to say "withOUT filtration or aeration"... Hope that makes more sense. Lori

    Bookmark   September 7, 2002 at 1:11PM
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IF your rain water grows algae, thats great. I have found that algae and other water plant are great for soil amendment and decompose extremely fast. If you don;t want the algae, just go to the pet store and buy a couple sucker fish. If you fish, you can catch one at the river(with moss or algae as bait). Hope this helps, Josh

    Bookmark   September 12, 2002 at 9:11PM
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Why hasn't anyone mentioned what folks on farms do for their watering tanks (and rain barrels) put a goldfish in it.

You can buy cheap goldfish (like the kind used for feeding snakes, etc..) at the aquarium store. Nothing fancy.

They are supposed to be hardy and you might put it in a bowl for the coldest months inside and feed it fish food.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2002 at 12:29PM
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Okay, first post.
Well as I understood it as long as you have the water moving it will not become stagnated for rain barrels(just rain barrels/tanks?).
So water flowing in and water flowing out moves the water.
And from reading one of these forums, algea is safe for the garden.
Keep it covered so leaves and mozzy's don't get in.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2002 at 5:38PM
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Same here - my query to consensus on how people keep their collected water from stagnating..

My first note, Dearest Lori, is that stagnated water is an efficient breeding ground for mosquitoes -- a taboo for anyone living in Ontario (anywhere, for that matter,) as our gov't spends a LOT of $$ on regular advertisements to dump standing water and for testing those pesky suckers for the West Nile virus.

And who wants to expose their skin, prized and / or edible plants to stinking and egg-infested water anyway? (I prefer the pail-inside-a-pail wick hydroponic gardening for my tomatoes, so the only way for hatched larvae to escape is up - through the lush growing medium)

So, are we left with few options than to run expensive wire to our reservoirs to run pumps, bubblers and / or UV/O3 generators?

Just what do all those 1000s of remote farmers use to eliminate stagnation in their reservoirs is my question?

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 9:27AM
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From what I have heard, chlorine evaporates fairly quickly. I would think that if you timed your water use between chlorine applications, all would be well.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 2:01PM
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I don't know about stagnant water. People make compost tea to water their plants. I have not had much trouble with my new rain barrels. Going on three years now.

Hard for mosquitoes to get in.

Click the link below to see my rain barrels.

Here is a link that might be useful: My rain barrels

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 9:27PM
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