But why the big rain barrel movement in the last couple of decades? How does collecting rain water actually benefit a community?
Much of the information that follows is from the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association web-site. From what I understand, collecting rain water from the roof into rain barrels prevents our waterway systems from becoming over-flooded with storm water. Heavy rains can lead to erosion in particular areas, and can also lead to pollution of land and waters - running storm waters can pick up debri, litter, junk, and can also merge with sewage. When heavy rains come and flow through our down spouts and on our streets, the systems that we have to manage water get all backed up and mixed up together, and polluted waters result. Collecting rain water in barrels or in rain gardens on your property allows a "capture" of the water so that it can either be used for other purposes or can seep back into your own land to feed plants.
When he was instructing us about rain barrel installation, Luke Stamper from the NMRWA described how the health of community water systems can be significantly improved when many residents use rain barrels. For example, if one rain barrel holds up to 100 gallons (low estimate), and each house has two rain barrels (that would be 200 gallons per residence), and 400 homes have two rain barrels -- that is 80,000 gallons of water that can be kept out of the waterways and used for better purposes - and that is just a one-time computation. That's a lot of water!
As I mentioned earlier, I have two rain barrels that are not yet connected. Luke offered to help me connect them. I might also paint them - like the one pictured above!
I don't have a water faucet on one side of my house, but do have a need for water on that side for plants and the bird bath. Luke mentioned connecting the two together for use on that one side of the house. Double-duty!
It feels good to work on this and to think about doing a small part for my playmates, both known and unknown, who live with me in my neighborhood. It feels good to play a part in keeping Frick Park and the Nine Mile Run a little cleaner. And this might even lower my water bill!