Archive for Monday, May 18, 2009

Workshops aim for measurable increase in rain barrel use

Tom Bach of the Hillsdale Water Quality Project cuts an access hole in the top of Julie Ferreira’s new rain barrel at a workshop in De Soto. Ferreira, a gardener at the Prairie Moon Waldorf School, said she would use the barrel to water plants at the school.

Tom Bach of the Hillsdale Water Quality Project cuts an access hole in the top of Julie Ferreira’s new rain barrel at a workshop in De Soto. Ferreira, a gardener at the Prairie Moon Waldorf School, said she would use the barrel to water plants at the school.

May 18, 2009


As he waited in line for a hole to be cut in the top of his new rain barrel, De Soto resident Sam Tyler said he remembered when people took advantage of the water that fell on their roofs

“My grandparents had a rain barrel,” he said. “They had a cistern, but they also had a rain barrel. My grandmother used it to wash her hair. It was supposed to be some kind of magic elixir to make hair shine.

“I’m going to use mine to water my plants. There is some magic to using rainwater on plants tap water doesn’t have.”

Tyler was one of 25 people who received a free 55-gallon plastic rain barrel at a recent workshop offered by the Hillsdale Water Quality Project at the De Soto wastewater treatment plant.

Hillsdale Water Quality Project director Gale Salzman said Tyler’s grandmother might have been overstating rainwater’s benefits for hair, but she was right about one thing that most people have forgotten in the past 50 years — rainwater is too valuable a resource to be allowed to drain from rooftops to ditches or storm gutters.

One inch of rain on a single square foot of roof provides 0.6 gallon of water, Salzman said. The same 1-inch rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof would drain 600 gallons of water, she said.

Lori Murdock, of De Soto, said that free water could be measured in dollars and cents.

“The benefit is my water bill will be less,” she said. “I’d seen something on them, and I’d been wanting to get one. This was a great opportunity to get it. And the price was right.”

Jennie Fyock, an information specialist with the Hillsdale Water Quality Project, said Johnson County Stormwater Management provided 100 rain barrels to the organization for distribution to workshop participants.

One of those was Julie Ferreira, who attended to get a rain barrel for Prairie Moon Waldorf School north of Lawrence.

“I’m the gardener at the school,” she said. “It’s a pretty good way to conserve water.”

The rain barrels distributed at the workshop were first modified with the installation of a spigot near the bottom. As their new owners circled through the workshop’s assembly line, a hose barb was inserted into an overflow hole newly drilled near the top of the barrel’s side. The barb was then attached to a sump pump hose to drain away overflowing water.

Finally, a rainwater access hole was cut in the top of the barrel, large enough to hold a flowerpot. To keep mosquitoes from breeding in water in the barrel, the flowerpot was covered with wire screen secured with rubber from a bicycle tire tube.

The Hillsdale Water Quality Workshop plans two more rain barrel workshops. At this time, only one has been scheduled, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. May 27 at Edgerton City Hall. To make a reservation, call 913-829-9414 or visit

In addition, the Leavenworth County and the Wyandotte County conservation districts will have a rain barrel workshop from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Wyandotte County Conservation District Office, 1200 N. 79th St., Kansas City, Kan. The workshop is limited to 20 participants and reservations can be made by calling 913-334-6329.


walleye9898 8 years, 6 months ago

JCIN -- didn't you read the complete article? Answer in 3rd paragraph from bottom.

tolawdjk 8 years, 6 months ago

Legal in Lawrence.

Illegal in parts of Colorado.

Yep, parts of Colorado, you don't have water rights to the runoff from your property.

Janet Lowther 8 years, 6 months ago

In the old days, the people who were really serious didn't stop with rain barrels: They had cisterns holding hundreds or thousands of gallons.

For that matter, there are a lot of older houses which still have cisterns in the countryside, but the connections to the roof are mostly gone.

Back before rural water districts, it wasn't uncommon for the rainwater held in a cistern to be a rural household's main source of water.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 6 months ago

If you get a new roof put on your house (with asphalt shingles) be careful: the initial runoff can have some nasty chemicals in it. I know someone who killed off their stocked pond that way.

LA_Ex 8 years, 6 months ago

bronze, it's not a drop of soap since they mix. It's a few drops of olive oil. The oil sits on top of the water creating a protective film.

JohnBrown 8 years, 6 months ago

I have an inverted "Y" on my drain spout with a paddle in it. When I want to collect rainwater I flip the paddel one way, and once it's full I flip it the other way to a drain spout that leads to the ground.

Ralph Reed 8 years, 6 months ago

We've had two of them for about three years. They work great!

imastinker 8 years, 5 months ago

This is a noble project but doesn't do much. 55 gallons isn't enough to do anything significant with. What you need is a large cistern big enough to store spring rains for summer use and not run dry. 10,000 gallons is about the size required to make any difference in water useage.

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