Rain Barrel

Green Plants and Fat Wallets: Water Conservation Tips for the Summer

By Elisa Hyder

After all the hard work during the spring, proper watering can help relieve some of summer’s challenges to a flourishing outdoor lawn and garden.  However, outdoor watering can easily turn into wasted watering if not done properly. Residential outdoor water use in the United States accounts for more than 7 billion gallons of water each day, and it is estimated that up to 50% of this water is wasted due to overwatering. That is 3.5 billion gallons of water down the drain every day, along with money spent for the water bill.

Overwatering draws down our water resources and your wallet, and it may also affect your beautiful plants. Overwatering may also lead to drooping or wilting plants and stunted growth.  Plants need a very specific amount of water for the best growth results, depending on weather and soil conditions.

There are lots of ways to save money and water when using water outside.  Always make sure that the water you are using is going towards the plants, not your house walls or sidewalks. Also, water your plants earlier in the morning or later in the evening; if done in the early afternoon, most of the water is lost to evaporation.  You can also think about rainwater harvesting like rain barrels as a source of water for your plants.  Check out our new video about rain barrels on youtube!

[youtube width=”400″ height=”300″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSBKqFrxoZA[/youtube]

Do you know just how much water to give your plants? It can be hard to track what’s going on with the weather and soil. But, now it can be a lot easier. There are technologies out there that can handle all of the effort.

Some of these technologies include irrigation controllers that, with proper programming, can do wonders for your garden and your water bill. Instead of using a clock or preset schedule, they work like a thermostat for your sprinkler system. There are access points that can be plugged into either an Internet router or personal computer which communicates wirelessly with the controllers.

Click for more about WaterSense Labeled Irrigation Controllers

Click for more about WaterSense Labeled Irrigation Controllers

So, the controllers are able to use the Internet to check local weather and landscape conditions to adjust the watering schedule. These controllers are designed to make sprinkler systems more efficient. With them, you can enjoy a beautiful outdoor lawn and garden while keeping some money in your pocket. In fact, it is estimated that they can help you save up to 40% on your water bills.

How are you watering your garden efficiently this summer?  For more tips on more efficient outdoor water use and technologies, visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense/ and check out WaterSense on Facebook and Twitter.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Conserving Water Resources With Green Infrastructure

Environmental Science Center at Ft. Meade, Maryland

By Trey Cody

EPA employees in Fort Meade, Maryland at the Environmental Science Center recently added some unique environmental features to their building, which is home to Region III’s chemistry and microbiology labs. EPA staff helped construct a rain garden with native grasses, goldenrod, coneflowers, and http://www.epa.gov/greeningepa/glossary.htm rerouting rooftop drainage pipes to a rain barrel to help reduce splash erosion as stormwater falls from roof gutters to the garden. The rain garden makes for a beautiful sight for workers at the front of the building and is watered both naturally and with the rain barrel.

These improvements and more are helping this facility in its effort to meet the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings as well as working towards achieving a U.S Green Building Council, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design existing building certification.

Read about more environmentally positive features of the Environmental Science Center.

This is just one way that EPA is helping to improve water quality by the construction of green infrastructure in our region. There are numerous other examples of how new products, technologies, and practices can use natural systems to enhance water quality. Some of these can be implemented in your local household or business. The great thing about green infrastructure is that while it is improving water quality, you can save water, money and energy.

Below are some examples of green infrastructure that you can implement to your house to promote water quality. You can click each one to view more information, fact sheets, benefits, examples and web sites.

  • Downspout Disconnection: The rerouting of rooftop drainage pipes to drain rainwater to rain barrels, cisterns, or permeable areas instead of the storm sewer.  Home owners can disconnect and reroute these pipes with little to no effort!
  • Rain Gardens: Shallow, vegetated basins that allows for the collection and absorption of runoff from rooftops, sidewalks, and streets.  Rain gardens mimic natural hydrology by infiltration, evaporation, and returning water vapor to the atmosphere.  They can be installed in almost any unpaved space. This is a great way for a homeowner to beautify their homes and improve water quality!
  • Permeable Pavements: Paved surfaces that allow infiltration, treating, and storage of rainwater where it falls.  Permeable pavements may be constructed from pervious concrete, porous asphalt, and several other materials.

Have you installed any of these or other examples of green infrastructure in your household?

Leave a comment and tell us about your experiences!

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of August will focus on Science and Innovation.

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Philadelphia Story: Using Green Infrastructure to Slow the Flow

By Tom Damm

Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Howard Neukrug, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Region 3 EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin, U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, and Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler at the signing of the partnership agreement; photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Water Department.

Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Howard Neukrug, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Region 3 EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin, U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, and Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler at the signing of the partnership agreement; photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Water Department.

The only good thing about sitting through a miserable, wind-blown drizzle watching the Phillies lose to the Dodgers Monday night was that the rain wasn’t heavy enough to bring out the tarp.  That would have meant a later night than expected for our EPA group and a groggier commute in the morning.

When it comes to downpours in Philadelphia, though, there are much greater concerns than some inconvenienced baseball fans… maybe even greater concerns than the Phils’ slow start to the 2012 season.

More than half of the city’s sewers carry both storm water and sewage, and when the system gets inundated during a rain event it can overflow, sending a stew of contaminants into streams and rivers.

What to do? In Philly’s case, the goal is to slow the flow.

Our EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, came to Philadelphia in April to sign an agreement with the city that represents a $2 billion investment in methods to intercept rainwater before it chugs into the sewer system with pollutants in tow.

Considered a national model, the 25-year Green City, Clean Waters plan will sprout green roofs, tree-lined streets, porous pavement, grassy swales and other features, transforming many of the city’s hard surfaces into absorbent green areas.

The city’s spongier footprint will not only mean fewer sewer overflows, it’ll also help spruce up the community and give a boost to the economy.

If eventually one of the biggest concerns from a storm is waiting out a rain delay at Citizens Bank Park, I can handle that.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Bay Website Focuses on Action

By Tom Damm

Click here to view a brochure produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee featuring examples of local actions to cut nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

There’s a new look to EPA’s Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” website.

The pollution diet, or Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), was established by EPA in December 2010, based largely on action plans provided by the watershed’s six states and the District of Columbia.

The website now has a greater focus on activities at the local level happening around the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed to reduce pollution impacting the Bay and its vast network of connecting rivers and streams.

One of the new additions is a brochure produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee featuring examples of local actions to cut nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

Check out those case studies and the other new items on the site, and let us know what you think.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Green smArts and Crafts: Build Your Own Rain Barrel!

treyrainbarrelBy Trey Cody

Looking for a “rainy day” project?  Get your tools ready – we’re making a rain barrel.  Not to worry.  It involves little cost and little labor and the benefits are huge.

A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater directly from your roof via your gutter.  It’s also a great green craft that protects the environment and saves you money!

A rain barrel can save most homeowners on average 1,300 gallons of water during the summer months because you can store and use the water from the rain barrel instead of water from the tap to water your garden or lawn or wash your car.  So sav­ing water with a rain barrel not only helps to protect the environment, it saves you money and energy because of decreased use of treated tap water.

Some other benefits of having a rain barrel are that water from storm drains is diverted into the barrel instead of adding to runoff to streams.  Also, your garden can stay healthy with water that is free of chlorine, lime or calcium.  So whether you want to show off your creative side and build your very own rain barrel or want to buy a ready-made one, a rain barrel is the right step towards your newer, healthier and greener garden!

To create your own rain barrel all you need are these basic materials:

  • 55 gallon polyethylene plastic barrel
  • 2 inch male threaded by 2 inch pipe adapter
  • Tube silicone sealer/cement
  • Outdoor faucet valve
  • 1/2 inch threaded bushing
  • 1/2 inch female threaded socket
  • Teflon tape
  • Screen fabric
  • Cinder blocks
  • Optional – paint to match your house color

And these basic tools:

  • Jig Saw
  • Power Drill with 3/4 inch Spade Bit
  • Scissors
  • Pipe Wrench and Pliers
  • Screw Driver
  • Hack Saw

This green craft is simple to construct.   Just click here to get the simple assembly instructions to make your rain barrel.

Making a rain barrel at my house was easier than I imagined and I had fun while doing it. So much fun that I actually constructed three! What I find most enjoyable is watching how quickly it fills up on a rainy day. Also, once it’s filled, using it and knowing that I created this rain barrel myself gives me great pleasure. I would recommend it to all who are looking for a fun and easy project that will help protect our environment and save them money.

There are other EPA employees in our Philadelphia office that have also been showing their handy sides and installing rain barrels at their homes and in their communities.  They all talk about how great their barrels work and how they either want to get or already have gotten a second barrel to store more water.

One of my co-workers cut up an old hose to use as a device to convey the water from the barrel to her garden.  She told me, “When I want to water the garden, I open the valve & let gravity do the rest.”  Other colleagues are such expert rain barrel craftsmen that they have set up rain barrel programs in their communities.  Fred told us that his Township Environmental Advisory Committee assembles homemade rain barrels using local volunteers and sells them to residents at $35 a piece (also check out Fred’s blog about rain barrels from last summer).

Want to take your garden to an even higher level, with an even greater environmental impact?  Having a rain barrel that drains right into a rain garden is the best combination for managing stormwater on your property.  Check out our blog on rain gardens to see how you can join the Rain Gardens for the Bays Campaign to green our neighborhoods and protect our streams and bays by creating thousands of rain gardens in local watersheds!

Do you have a rain barrel at your house?  What other green projects have you done or can you think of?  Share your ideas in the comments section!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Control Your Stormwater and Save Money, Use a Rain Barrel

Did you know that lawn and garden watering make up nearly 40% of total household water use during the summer? Rain barrels provide free water to use during these high water usage periods, saving most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water as well as saving money and energy. A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams. Usually a rain barrel is a 55 gallon drum with a vinyl hose, PVC couplings, a screen grate to keep debris and insects out, and other off-the-shelf items.


Rain Barrel connected to a gutter downspout

Rain Barrel connected to a gutter downspout

It’s relatively simple and inexpensive to construct one and it can sit conveniently under any residential gutter down spout collecting and storing water for when you need it most — during periods of drought — to water plants, wash your car, or top off a swimming pool.

Do you use rain barrels? If so, we invite you to comment to us about it. If you don’t currently use one, would you ever consider installing one? If not, why not?



Check out some of these projects in Maryland, Virginia and other Mid Atlantic States.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.