Monday, March 31, 2014

The Benefits of Rain Barrels

Rain barrel on Philadelphia street.
It's been a long and tiring winter. Now that spring is here, things are beginning to look green again. Children are playing outside, buds are popping up on trees and spring showers will soon be sprouting gardens. With that in mind, it's a great time to be thinking about rain barrels - their importance in helping manage stormwater and how they can help you save on your water bill.

First, a bit on stormwater.

As communities expand with development, they become increasingly built up with impermeable surfaces such as big parking lots at big box stores. The result is that rain has few places to go; it hits the hard surfaces and just runs right off into our streams.

In urban areas, stormwater management has become a critical issue because of the adverse impact from combined sewer overflows on a watershed and a city's clean drinking water. A rain barrel helps limit this because it holds that first bit of rain coming off the roof or your driveway and prevents it from running into sewers and streams and causing overflow pollution and erosion from high flows of water.


Illustration of a combined sewer system
Illustration of a combined sewer system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In addition to helping the environment and helping reduce your community's need to build costly new grey infrastructure, rain barrels enable you to harvest rainwater for use with watering plants, lawns, mopping floors, washing clothes or washing cars. You don't want to use rainwater from runoff to drink or to water edibles in the garden - it may contain unknown contaminants. But there are a plethora of other uses.

The other side of this is that as you conserve water, you'll also benefit from saving on your water bill. And in Philadelphia, the water department has gone as far as to provide free rain barrels and workshops to city-dwellers.



See the short video below from the EPA to learn more about the great dollar and environmental benefits of rain barrels - a simple and effective investment to conserve water, save money, and help the environment.



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