By Nancy Dashwood
HOWARD LAKE Sick of the all the rain? Just want it to go away?
People could solve a portion of their excess rain woes in an easy way: by installing and using a rain barrel.
Residents of Howard Lake are in luck. The city has partnered with the Crow River Watershed to offer inexpensive rain barrels to citizens.
Why get a rain barrel?
The City of Superior Wastewater Division of Public Works, using a grant from the Duluth/Superior Area Community Foundation, hosts rain barrel workshops.
Leaders indicate reasons to have a rain barrel at home include:
• to keep water out of storm and combined sewer systems;
• to protect our rivers, lakes, and streams from runoff pollution;
• to control moisture levels around the foundation of homes;
• to provide oxygenated, un-chlorinated water, which is ideal for plants;
• to have the ability to direct overflow water where it is needed;
• to reduce water and wastewater bills; and,
• to conserve water in the summer months, when demand is the highest.
Rules regarding runoff
Crow Wing County Extension Educator Jackie Froemming shared how rain barrels work, and a few rules for use of the rainwater collected.
“The rain barrel is placed underneath a shortened downspout, diverting the roof runoff into the rain barrel,” she stated.
“Placing the rain barrel on a sturdy platform will allow for more clearance under the spigot, plus will increase the rate of flow when attaching a hose to the barrel’s spigot.”
Froemming said the water collected in rain barrels is not fit for humans to drink, and encouraged people to keep children and pets away from rain barrels.
What to do with all that water?
Froemming said the most common use for rain collected in barrels is for watering gardens. She suggested rain water is actually a good option for gardens, lawns, and trees, because rainwater is naturally soft. This means the rain water does not contain chlorine, minerals, or other chemicals typically found in city-supplied water.
Froemming stated that plastic rain barrels can be painted in any way the barrel owner wishes, and suggested the use of spray paint specifically made to bond well with plastic.
More than you’d think
Some easy math shows how quickly rainwater may fill a rain barrel. Basically, for each inch of rainwater that lands on one square foot of roof, just over half a gallon of rainwater may be collected.
Froemming’s easy example demonstrates the concept in a realistic way.
“If you have a shed that is 10-feet-by-10-feet, and you can collect the roof runoff for all 100 square feet of the roof, you could collect 60 gallons of rainwater during a 1-inch rain event.”
Howard Lake City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller said the city’s partnership with the Crow River Watershed has been a beneficial one.
“The barrels retail for $55, and we are selling them at a discounted price of $30,” he stated. “For Howard Lake, this seemed like an inexpensive, worthwhile experiment of sorts to try out with our residents.
“We feel this is a way that folks could conserve natural resources and finances. To date, we have sold about 20 barrels, and we have about 10 available.”
Further rainy day information
Froemming may be reached at 218-824-1068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register a rain barrel, visit the website of the Lakes Area Clean Waters Council at www.dropstopabsorb.org.
If interested in learning about making rain barrels, contact the Superior Wastewater Division of Public Works at 51 East First Street, Superior, WI 54880.