Sunday, April 19, 2015

Barrels of fun: It's all about rain water

EPA exhibit showcases the art and science of rain barrels.

Barrels of fun: It's all about rain water

Rain barrel in EPA exhibit was painted by students at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.
Rain barrel in EPA exhibit was painted by students at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

I’d always figured that since I live on a large piece of property and have a private well with ample water, I didn't  really need a rain barrel to catch water.

I don’t have either storm water or water supply issues.


Last week, after lugging buckets of water — or dragging a big hose — down the hill from our house to the heat-wilted plants outside our garage, which has no water, my husband came up with a great idea.

Why not get a rain barrel and capture the water from the garage roof, and use it to water the plants?

Duh. Clearly, we have a supply issue after all.

So we’re on the case.

And there’s a great resource nearby.

The regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency is having a rain barrel exhibit at its Public Information Center, 1650 Arch St. in Philadelphia, through Sept. 20.

Focusing on both the art and the science of rain barrels, it includes barrels painted by kids at several schools in the area, plus the the Mt. Airy Art Garage, the Philadelphia Water Department and the Energy Coordinating Agency.

Connected to a down spout, a rain barrel will collect and store rainwater from your roof. It’s especially important in areas where water is scarce and/or storm water is abundant — flooding through the sewer system into area streams and rivers.

Especially so in Philadelphia, where storm water in many areas flows into the sanitary sewer system. If there’s too much, the untreated water overflows into area streams ... and even, occasionally, basements.

The city has been encouraging rain barrels as part of its new “Green City, Clean Waters” effort to deal with storm water. Instead of spending millions of dollars to construct a massive underground tunnel to hold storm water until it can be pumped back out and treated, as some cities have done, Philadelphia’s plan calls for a multitude of ways to stem the flow more naturally.

The city is installing special “tree trenches” to hold the flow and is replacing some streets with porous pavement. Playground surfaces are being redone. “Rain gardens” are being planted. And more.

“Rain barrels are a way for homeowners to save money by saving water," said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin in a press release about the exhibit.”

“Not only can they use the water collected in the rain barrel to water their gardens, they are also actively helping the environment by reducing pollution in local streams and rivers,” he said.

The EPA has more information about rain barrels here.

The city water department has information about its Green City, Clean Waters plan here.

Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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