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Green Parenting

Rain Barrels and their Positive Impact

April 01, 2011
Hoosiers are becoming more conscious of their affect on the environment. Whether it's recycling newspapers or reusing nature's finest gift of water, Hoosiers are looking for ways to lessen our "environmental footprint". One of the easiest ways to save your money and do well by Mother Nature is to reuse rain water in a rain barrel.

Rain barrels are an economical and environmentally friendly way to reuse water. A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater from a roof that would otherwise run off and be diverted to a storm drain or a stream, according to Indianapolis Water. Rain barrels are connected to a home's down spouts and collect water when it rains, with rain water being a free filtered water—free of chlorine, lime and calcium, which is ideal to wash cars, water gardens and wash windows.

"A quarter-inch of rain will fill a 55-gallon barrel," Randy Gray, sales manager with Green Way Supply said. "Capturing rainwater will reduce the use of city water and can be used to water plants indoors. Some people run a soaker hose to water plants and grass."

How You Can Help by Using Rain Water

Ron Lauster, director of The Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), said rain barrels help conserve water. "I know my own grandparents used old wooden barrels to collect rainwater to water plants or store water in case there was a drought," Lauster said.

The SWCD website http://marionswcd.org/ offers basic instructions to build your own rain barrel.

Today's rain barrels are made with plastic or treated wood and hold up to 75 gallons of water. They include a vinyl hose, PVC couplings, a screen grate to keep debris and insects, particularly mosquitoes, and other items out of the water. Rain barrels can be connected to each other to collect even more rain water.

Lauster expanded on the importance of keeping water out of the storm drains, "Instead of picking up pollutants and going into water ways, water can be collected and used at home. Even now, with the dry summers we've had, water doesn't soak into the ground, but runs off roofs to sidewalks to driveways then streets collecting pollutants along the way and then carrying them into waterways."

Lauster said the percentage of solid surfaces on a standard quarter-acre lot doesn't allow rain much choice but to run off and dry weather inhibits the ground from absorbing water as well.

Several hardware stores and non-for-profit organizations sell rain barrels including SWCD, Green Way Supply http://www.greenwaysupply.net/ and Automatic Irrigation Supply Company http://www.automaticirrigation.com/ . Green Way Supply sells rain barrels made from recycled plastic Italian olive containers.

"We have 75-gallon terra cotta barrels in brown, gray, terra cotta and black," Gray said. Rain barrels start at 150 dollars retail. Interesting do-it-yourself kits and instructions are available online.

It's a Team Effort

Environmentally, 55 to 75 gallons of recycled water may not seem like it's making an impact, but it is. If neighbors join in the effort and use more than one barrel for themselves, a neighborhood could make an impact on their waterways while also saving money on water bills.

According to Green Way Supply, homeowners with irrigation systems account for 60 percent of all domestic water consumption. According to SWCD, those without irrigation systems use up to 40 percent of total household water use on lawn and garden watering during summer months.

Furthermore, using a rain barrel will save a homeowner about 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months. Rethinking how to use nature's finest resource will save money and improve Indiana's waterways and wildlife.

By investing a few hundred dollars in long-lasting household items such as a rain barrel or compost bin and by taking the time to recycle, each of us has the ability to make an impact that will last generations from our time.

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Nikki Keever is a freelance writer living in Noblesville, IN with her husband, three children and two dogs.

Tags: In This Issue, Green Parenting, Parenting

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