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Getting the most from your water butt

Did you know that water butts can help prevent river pollution as well as providing water for your garden?

Installing a water butt is the simplest thing that anyone can do to contribute to better water management. Water butts serve two distinct purposes. The most obvious is to collect water when it rains you can use it later to water the garden or wash the car.

The second, but equally important job is to capture a portion of every rain event and then release it slowly. This is called attenuation and helps to ensure that drains can cope with the amount of water they receive by releasing it slowly. To do this the water butt needs to have some empty space at the start of a storm. If every water butt is full at the start of a rain event they won’t be able to perform this function, so it’s important to have a way to manage the water. There are a variety of options to ensure your water butt always has spare capacity.

Create a leaky water butt

You could create a leaky water butt that empties slowly after every storm. Do this by drilling a small hole at the base of the water butt to gently let the water leak out back to the drain,

Create a combination water butt

You could also create a combination water butt that stores water and also provides some attenuation. Do this by drilling an extra outlet about 2/3 way up, that overflows either into a planter, out to rain garden or back to the drain. This option gives you the best of both worlds. There are products on the market called ‘SuDS water butts’ specifically designed for this purpose but it’s easy to convert a standard butt.

Create an actively managed water butt

Alternatively you could create an actively managed water butt. You can do a DIY version of this by connecting an irrigation timer to the tap on a standard water butt, so that it empties for an amount of time each day. This could be through a perforated hose, to a drip irrigation system, or just a normal hose to a flower bed. A Southern Water project on Sandown on the Ise of Wight has gone one step further and installed actively manged water butts that are remotely controlled in response to the weather forecast and empty before rain is due.

Find out more about the Great Bedwyn rain garden project here.


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Fantastic practical advice - thanks, Ruth !

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