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Around the Water Cooler: Rain Barrels Make Me Happy

2012 October 4

By Sarah Blau

Rain barrel

This rain barrel in the Carrboro Town Commons brought a smile to my face. Catching runoff from a downspout, it provides water for the nearby landscaping.

I recently attended an outdoor music concert in Carrboro, NC. Whilst enjoying the local bluegrass and exploring the Town Commons venue, I discovered something that brought a smile to my face—rain barrels!

Here at EPA I have learned an awful lot about stormwater and all the problems it causes when it runs off our roads and rooftops into the sewer system or nearby water bodies. (See: Keeping Stormwater In Place) On the positive side, I have also learned of all the cool research EPA is doing to confront this problem using sustainable practices.

It was here that I first learned what rain barrels are, how they help the environment and help cut water utility fees at the same time! These barrels catch water pouring off roofs and store that water for later use such as watering gardens. At the same time, rain barrels keep excess water out of the local sewer system where it can cause flooding and pollute nearby water resources. The best part is that rain barrels are easy to install and many towns have rain barrel give-aways or rain barrels to purchase at reduced cost, or you can even make your own.

Check out this cool video to learn more about rain barrels: Rain Barrels: Small Investment, Big Benefits

Rain barrels are not the only measure you can take at your own home to help curb the problems of stormwater runoff. You could also:

  • Install a rain garden—these gardens, located in low-lying areas, will “catch” water runoff and give it time to soak into the soil.
  • Choose gravel over paved driveways—gravel allows rainwater to soak into the ground where it lands while paved driveways divert rainwater toward the main road or storm drain.
  • Consider growing a green roof—green roofs not only soak up rainwater hitting your roof, but also have been shown to help insulate your home, lowering energy costs for heating and cooling!

After learning so much about rain barrels and other stormwater practices, I lament the fact that I live in an apartment and cannot install my own. At least I can spread the word and hopefully convince you to look into these environmentally friendly, economical, and useful additions for your own home.

About the author: Sarah Blau is a student services contractor working on the Science Communications Team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She eagerly awaits the day she owns a home and can install her own rain barrels and rain gardens!


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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