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Fixes for Rain-barrel Snafus

Though they're easy to use, it's just as easy to overlook simple tasks that keep rainwater barrels shipshape

<p>Troubleshoot mosquitoes, debris, algae, and broken spigots</p>

Troubleshoot mosquitoes, debris, algae, and broken spigots

Renee Morris/Alamy

Thanks to rising water prices, the sale of barrels used to collect rainwater for irrigation has climbed dramatically in the past couple of years. Though they're easy to use, it's also easy to overlook the simple tasks that keep them shipshape. Read on to learn how to troubleshoot common complaints quickly.

PROBLEM: The standing water is a mosquito magnet.

FAST FIX: A mosquito donut, available at garden centers, will keep bugs from breeding for about a month. Float one on the water's surface; secure it to the barrel's rim with a string threaded through the center hole.

PROBLEM: Dead leaves and twigs are getting inside and muddying up the water.

FAST FIX: Check for clogs or holes in the screen that fits over the barrel's opening and clean, fix, or replace as needed. To trap sediment, fit a mesh screen over the end of the drainpipe that feeds your barrel; rinse it out once a month so that water doesn't back up behind it.

PROBLEM: Water drains too slowly or not at all from the bottom spigot.

FAST FIX: Remove debris from the interior opening, and make sure the barrel is on a platform of bricks or cinder blocks so that gravity can help water escape. Raise the platform if the problem continues.

PROBLEM: Algae has formed on the water's surface, but I don't want to use an algicide because I'm afraid it will harm the plants I want to water afterward.

FAST FIX: Add a capful or two of bleach, and let it sit for several days before using the water. To remove organic matter, empty your barrel completely about once a month and scrub it with a plastic brush.