(Previously posted at princetonprimer.org. Might still be time to register.)
Princeton Township will be hosting a workshop by Rutgers on rainbarrels. Looks like it's open to all Princeton residents--township and borough. $20 registration fee gets you a 50 gallon rainbarrel, which they'll show you how to assemble. Go to this link and scroll down to the info on the workshop to be held Sept. 29, 9-11am in Princeton.
Some things to keep in mind about rainbarrels: A roof can shed a couple thousand gallons of water in a 1 inch rainstorm, so capturing 50 gallons is a symbolic gesture. Even less will be captured if the rainbarrel still contains water from the previous storm. One approach is to hook the rainbarrel up to a soaker hose so the barrel will consistently empty out inbetween rains, but then you don't have any water available for watering the garden during dry periods. Provision for overflow is important, lest the excess water simply spills out next to the foundation. After experimenting with rainbarrels long ago (with barrels donated by a local CocaCola plant), I ended up foregoing rainbarrels altogether and instead directed water out into areas of the yard where it can soak in and create an underground reservoir to sustain plants through droughts.
Still, they're worth considering. In particular, they serve to make one aware of where water is flowing. It's appealing, also, to fill a watering can with rainwater captured from the sky. The Rutgers link may offer some convincing success stories, and the price is right.