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Saving on a Rainy Day

by Krista Chapdelaine

Can eating a pickle help improve and protect our rivers and lakes? It certainly can in the Milwaukee area, where old pickle barrels are being transformed into rain barrels. The practice is an old one, but with dry summers and rising water bills many gardeners are turning to non-chlorinated, soft and mildly acidic water otherwise lost to the sewers. Rain barrels collect water that will make your plants happier, your pocketbook healthier, and our lakes and rivers cleaner. The water is free and you only need to look as far as your roof to get it. You may want a basic UV-coated plastic barrel, or the Cadillac of rain barrels: white oak Jack Daniels barrels. Whichever you chose, rain barrels help slow down runoff so rain can drain naturally into the ground, helping keep excess water out of sewer systems and rain runoff from collecting pollutants on its trip to nearby waterways. Rain barrels are big containers outfitted with spigots near the bottom and an overflow hose near the top. Usually, they are able to hold anywhere from 50 to 90 gallons of water. When you disconnect your downspout, the rain barrel can be placed directly underneath to collect the rainwater from your roof. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District estimates that, during a heavy rain storm, each downspout in your house can release up to 12 gallons of rainwater a minute. “By using rain barrels, property owners can help manage the stormwater that runs off their rooftops.It’s a simple and easy technique that can help reduce flows to the sewer system and protects the environment,”said MMSD’s Tom Chapman, technical services division section manager. In mid 2003, MMSD announced the start of its rain barrel program. The Milwaukee Community Service Corps, a nonprofit organization providing young, unemployed men and women with hands-on work experience, assembled and outfitted the barrels. Rain barrels are now offered to the public for purchase. In the first two months of the program, over 160 barrels were sold. “I like using free, non-chlorinated water on my vegetables,” said Karen Sands, an MMSD employee. Rain barrels should be used in conjunction with other water management practices, such as rain gardens, green roofs, stormwater trees, and porous pavement. Adding a rain barrel to your home is a great first step to better water quality and resource awareness.
by Krista Chapdelaine