PLANO (CBSDFW.COM)  – The rains over the weekend didn’t make much of a dent in local lake levels.  But people who harvest rainwater got a chance to prove how useful and economical it can be.  Water experts at Texas A&M say the runoff from as little as 2-inches of rain can fill a 55-gallon drum.

James Hawkins of Plano no longer irrigates his yard.   He taps the water that rolls off his carport to use for plants.

“I tinker with this and we haven’t used irrigation here for a couple of summers, ”  he said of his sealed homemade rain barrel.   He made it himself using PVC pipe and an old barrel.  “It had fruit juice in it; it didn’t have any chemicals or fuel or anything like that,” he said of the barrel adding, “I can catch a barrel pretty quick if it’s raining hard.”

(credit: CBS 11 News)

(credit: CBS 11 News)

Folks who are less handy can get a variety of new generation rain barrels through hardware stores.  Patrick Bearden of The Home Depot showed us one model advertised for $79.

“You can hook up a diverter (from a gutter’s downspout) that will run straight into the rain barrel to capture water,” he told CBS 11 News.

And if a house doesn’t have gutters?  No problem.  There are filtered openings on top.

“You’d have to put it in, like, a corner of the house so it will gather the water as it runs off the roof,” he said.

(credit: CBS 11 News)

(credit: CBS 11 News)

Rainwater harvested from roofs and gutters is not fit for humans.  And standing water can attract mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus.  So dropping mosquito dunks into them will not hurt the plants.

“It’s what we call a designer pesticide,” said Dotty Woodsen, a Texas A&M Water Resources expert.  “It’s actually a bacterium. And, as it comes out into your rain water to irrigate with…it’s not going to hurt any of your landscaping even in vegetable gardens.”

Some cities offer rebates: Plano will give residents up to 50-dollars for buying rain barrels  ($25 a barrel) if the homeowner has the receipt, or if he or she has passed an A&M water harvesting course.    Residents may check their cities to see what what programs are  available.

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