Water butts are cool.
Not just that – they’re an eco-warrior’s secret weapon to recycling a valuable resource.
Long mocked for their alien-pod-like appearance lining suburban streets, water butts are enjoying a revival as people are recognising the important role they can play in preserving and re-using rainwater.
Here are 5 reasons why you should – if you can – make installing a water butt one of your jobs this year.
*Will not apologise for any butt-based puns.
They’ll Reduce Your Water Bills
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, it becomes very expensive and inefficient filling up your watering can from the kitchen sink.
With the growing cost of living and utilities, we can’t really afford to be literally pouring this money away, can we?
Butts can start from £40 for the 100L plastic models. The bigger the butt, the bigger the price. You can pick them up from any hardware store or garden centre. The supermarket chains have certainly tapped into this market too – there’s usually a group of them standing like a pod of penguins in the garden section. Given this upfront cost, you will quickly make this money back over the years.
If upcycling is more your thing, you can of course pick up a bargain from second hand sites like facebook marketplace. Just be weary of someone trying to sell you a leaky butt. Or, if you’re feeling brave, have a go at making your own!
If you’ve got the cash, there are much more visually appealing styles available. These range from terracotta to oak barrel models, making for an eye-catching feature rather than an eyesore. I can’t quite justify the £150 to drop on one just yet but it is certainly on my wish list.
Reduces Demand For Water
Thanks to our water-hungry household appliances and decades of bad habits, us Brits already use an average of 140 litres per day, per person.
So as well as save you money, butts help to reduce the demand for tap water. Our population is going up with more houses being built in villages and towns. This all adds to the strain that our local water resources are under.
Of course, the situation could be improved if the water companies didn’t lose 1 trillion litres of water each year to leaks annually. But as Severn Trent’s text reminders will tell me, it can also fall on us and our individual actions to help make a difference – especially in periods of water scarcity…
Who can forget the summer of 2022? In 2022 the UK saw record-breaking temperatures of 40°C, England received just 16mm of rain in July and photos of a parched British Isles adorned the front pages.
But why the surprise? With our warming climate this is fast becoming the norm. The rain is getting less reliable and scarcer, especially in the South East and Eastern England.
And that doesn’t just go for the summer months. Large parts of southern England received less than 50% of their normal winter rainfall in 2022. That matters as we rely on winter rain to top up our aquifers, reservoirs and rivers. Research is showing that the chance of a dry summer following a dry winter is now five times more likely since the 1970s, compounding the problem even more.
This all can lead to the inevitable shock and horror of the headline ‘Hosepipe Ban!’
But there needn’t be any drama. Middle Englanders who want to keep their lawns lush can rest easy. A good old-fashioned watering can and a water butt will keep bird bowls topped up, borders healthy and, yes, even your lawn green if you are so inclined – even though grass is one of the hardiest plants and will soon recover.
So, in the event of a hosepipe ban, with a water butt the message is clear – keep calm and carry on.
Helps Alleviate Drainage Systems
Butts can play a small but important role in easing the pressure on our drainage system too! Scenes of sewage gushing into our seas and rivers are outrageous – and becoming depressingly familiar. Yes, again, the water companies have failed to be held to account and have under-invested in the network for decades.
But all that water still has to go somewhere. Installing a water butt is one small act of defiance.
We’re certainly very good at not helping the problem. With our paved driveways, we are increasingly removing the earth itself as a helpful resource for soaking up all that rainwater.
This is especially important given the challenges posed by climate change – UK rainfall is going to get heavier. Where I live in the East Midlands I’ve noticed in the last few years how we can go days without rain, only for it to pour down in a matter of hours. Our homes and the pipes laid underneath are not up to the job, leading to a greater chance of flash floods and ground water flooding.
But an empty water butt can pack a punch in this fight. The big ones can save 250 litres from adding to the problem. (It’s scary how quickly they fill up during a downpour.) Imagine if a neighbourhood, maybe just a street, installed a network of butts.
And voila – you’ve helping to turn a problem into a solution.
Your Garden Will Love You For It
Rainwater is a garden’s best friend. Pouring good, clean drinking water onto plants is just dumb. Leave the kitchen water for yourself.
But plants? They love rainwater. Forget plant feed – you can’t beat a good sprinkling of water fresh from a water butt.
And it’s not just for gardeners!
Why not fill a bucket with the rainwater you saved earlier and use that instead to wash your car or your bike?
The one down (pipe) side
Installing your butt can be a bit of faff. You’re going to need a fine-tooth saw, a bit of bravery to temporarily wound your guttering, and a little perseverance.
My guttering was old so it was not best suited to the moving and twisting I was putting it through.
One easy mistake to avoid – I made the cut to the downpipe and set up the connection higher than the butt itself instead of level with it (don’t judge me, it was my first time).
This meant the pipe from gutter to butt sloped downhill. This works too well – catching the rain perfectly, but without a way for it to stop flowing.
The cut was already made so there was no choice but to raise the height of the butt itself by standing it on breezeblocks. Problem solved.
In a dryer climate where rain, when it does pour, is getting heavier, water butts are our great ally. They unassumingly recycle a resource that, whether we care to admit or not in some parts of the country, is under pressure.
No downpipe should be complete without one standing proudly at the bottom.
So this year, give a butt a go!