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The problem with rain barrels is that they're not that good for watering the lawn. After using all the water for the 100 sq ft of lawn, you have an empty barrel. To refill, you need rain. If you need to refill your rain barrel on a frequent basis, you need frequent rain. If you have frequent rain, you don't need to water. If you don't need to water, then you don't need rain barrels.

At our Chicago house we had a very small backyard, terraced with several gardens. A couple of rainbarrels would have worked fine, although during long dry stretches we would have had to supplement with house water. It isn't that it makes utility water 100% unnecessary, just that it can take care of 50% or more of the typical usage over the course of a s season.

That house also had a four-level "pond" made of railroad ties and a rather long sluiceway which was not in use when we moved in. After a month's filling and use I understood why; the splashover from the tiered levels and the evaporation made the water bill soar.

I dug a pit, added a 100 gallon rainwater collector, covered it over, added a small pump, and the problem mostly went away. If the barrel (it was bigger than a barrel, but that's what I'll call it) went dry, it could refill from the house water (I actually jury-rigged a toilet tank float to allow) but mostly there was occasional, if sometimes infrequent rain which kept the water level at acceptable levels for the pump.

I saw a system back then (which I cannot find now) which allowed for the stacking of rainbarrels atop each other; you could put as many on top of each other as you could dig a hole deep enough to hold them. Very nice for confined spaces, put three or four together, then disappear them into the ground. Completely out of sight; required a one day mammoth post-hole digger rental, and from that point it could be completely DIY. Dig the hole, fasten the rainbarrels together, slide into the hole, re-cover, done. Thought about it but didn't do it.
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