Save money, improve our lake

Jun 3, 2014


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: (under the DIY tab).


Ralph J.

When untreated sewage reaches our lake, beaches can become unsafe for swimming, and algal blooms can form. There you go.

2cents's picture

I am surprised that there are not any comments yet. I for one understand the runoff issue after cleaning a friends flooded basement in North Ridgeville a few weeks ago. Rain barrels would have done nothing in that case but what I like about this is, it is a good suggestion and for personal choice, it is not a government mandate and you have freedom to do this. That is until some local allotment groups say it does not fit in with their rules and unfortunately it is these allotment's that have most of the water issues.

Just saying!


My questions are directed at anyone in the area that already has a rail barrel filling by a roof downspout:

What happens when the barrel is full? We get downpours so often now that I am concerned about using one near my home (and basement). Can you clean them out? I'm thinking about the tree pollen, cottenwood tree fuz, conifer needles and oak catkins all over my roof at this moment.


Though we live in rural huron county, we have rain barrels on our downspouts. On the side of the barrel we cut a hole and attach a piece of 3 in corrugated pipe and run it to a catch basin which distributes it to the drainage tile at the back of our property when the water in it gets too high.

Don Lee

Doesn't that defeat the purpose? From the article: "Between rainy days, the water collected in the barrel can be used to water your thirsty landscape with no cost to you."


My friend and I went to the rain barrel class offered by Erie Soil & Water and I have two rain barrels. I have mine hooked on opposite sides of the house and the runoff is directed away from the foundation by a hose. You can make the hose as long as you need to direct water away from the house. My friend has his set up next to each other and when one fills up it runs off into the second barrel. If that fills up, the water bypasses the rain barrel and goes down the downspout as normal. Hope this helps.


Don, please read the last sentence of knuckledragger. it appears that the pipe is near the top on the side and is there to prevent overflow from running off near the house. so it doesn't defeat the purpose.


And yes, the top comes off for easy cleaning. They also sell some pretty nice looking ones at Menards.