Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rain Barrels as Dinner Conversation

I have a confession to make. Lately, I’ve been hijacking parties to talk up rain barrels to my friends. Fortunately for my agenda (and my social life), the cities of Champaign and Urbana are hosting a rain barrel sale this coming Saturday, May 25 (see complete info here), and, not only are the barrels half the price they would be at a hardware store, but they might also keep saving you money.

According to Scott Tess, the Urbana Environmental Sustainability Manager and one of the organizers of the sale, the primary purpose of rain barrels is to reduce potable water usage in landscaping. And, since the U.S. EPA estimates that about 30% of American water use is for landscaping, disconnecting your downspout could result in a smaller water bill.

Here in Champaign-Urbana, as in much of Illinois, there’s an additional benefit to saving some rainwater for later use: our water is supplied exclusively from groundwater. Unfortunately for our water use habits, though, the U.S. Geological Survey just released a report stating that the U.S. is rapidly using up its groundwater resources. Consequently, those 55 gallon rain barrels might make a big difference in keeping gardens green while still ensuring that groundwater resources are available in the future.

In a coming blog post, we’ll examine the work of IWRC-sponsored researchers Drs. Amy Ando and Catalina Londoño as they take a look at what motivates people to add rain barrels and other green infrastructure to their neighborhoods in the Chicago region.