Still a drought, but rain barrel sales dry up

Until about April, a 65-gallon rain barrel was the must-have tool to save water, fight drought and show the neighbors you're green.

But stores that sold 300 barrels a week last year are sitting on inventory and cutting prices. Rain barrels go for as little as $25 online — down from the $100-plus price tag common in dry months.

“It's just basically stopped off,” said Lynn Ruck, who co-owns Rain Water Solutions in Raleigh, which makes and sells barrels. “We hope it's going to become a lifestyle rather than a weather pattern.”

The best hope for sales is year-round eco-thinking — or the slow return of prolonged dry weather.

Last summer, as the rain deficit inched up across North Carolina, rain barrels provided an easy way to keep a lawn green without straining the water supply, and they made easy money for overnight barrel moguls.

The demand inspired Cher Durham of Garner to buy pickle barrels in Mount Olive or Goldsboro for $5 apiece, fashion them into rain barrels and sell them for $55 as a sideline.

In dry times, Durham had orders for about 10 barrels a week. Once the rains came, business slowed to one or two.

“I sell them cheap because I really want to help people out,” she said.

Business is slower for big operators, too.

Ruck at Rain Water Solutions recalls having orders backed up four to six weeks last year, but now there are plenty of barrels on hand.