When it rains, it drains. And if we do not manage our runoff properly, we see an increase in flooding and a decrease in water quality. In our area, like many other U.S. communities, storm and sewer systems are combined, resulting in the dumping of untreated sewage when we get a heavy storm. When untreated sewage reaches our lake, beaches can become unsafe for swimming, and algal blooms can form.
Communities struggle to manage their runoff and need the help of all homeowners to help make a difference in the health of Lake Erie.
So what can you do to help?
By simply installing a few rain barrels at your home, you can help hold back runoff from our sewer system and save money on watering costs.
Although rain barrels themselves are small, they can make a big impact. The more rain barrels installed, the fewer overflow events from our combined sewer system, which means less untreated sewage in Lake Erie after a storm.
Rain barrels are a type of water harvesting system, much like the cisterns of old. They come in many different makes, shapes and sizes, but all function pretty much the same. A rain barrel is attached to the downspout of your home or garage to collect rain water. Between rainy days, the water collected in the barrel can be used to water your thirsty landscape with no cost to you.
The sky seems to be the limit on rain barrel costs. Depending on storage capacity, barrel material and the aesthetic appearance, the cost of rain barrels can range from $55-$300. But don’t get discouraged. You can make your own rain barrel for a fraction of the retail cost, and we are here to help you. The Firelands Coastal Tributaries Watershed Program is offering several rain barrel workshops this spring and summer for a small registration fee of $45.
At our rain barrel workshop, participants will learn the benefits of rain barrels — for their pocketbook and the environment — and how to build one. Best of all: Each participant will build their own rain barrel to take home. Our workshops include all supplies and tools for building the rain barrel and friendly volunteers to help assist you.
We have helped residents make more than 350 rain barrels at our workshops, so what are you waiting for! Be the first on your block to own a rain barrel; start saving money and help Lake Erie.
To register, contact the Erie Soil and Water Conservation District at 419-626-5211, or stop in and see us at the Erie County Services Center, 2900 Columbus Ave., Room 131, in Sandusky. Registrations are a first-come first-served basis so don’t delay. For more information on rain barrels, visit our watershed website: ErieCleanWater.org (under the DIY tab).