I 💘 My Rain Barrel

Last Fall I took a short course at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society┬áLibrary (on 20th and Arch) about rain water conservation and Philly’s water supply. The class was really informative and taught really well. I enjoyed it, although I had learned most of the information in my environmental science classes in middle school. I wasn’t there for just the class, I was in it for a free rain barrel. The Philadelphia Water Department’s “Rain Check” program is working to educate Philadelphians about storm water runoff and gray water usage in the city. For those of you that don’t know, Philly has a major storm water problem. We have an old combined sewer system, meaning that stormwater runoff from our homes, sidewalks and streets flow into the same pipe as our sewage waste. Our sewers are also designed so that when the sewers get overloaded by big rain storms or snow melts, they drain into the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, polluting them with sewage and stormwater runoff filled with chemicals and gasoline and oil.

Back in 1997 Philadelphia received an Audit from the EPA, which stated that Philly had to clean up their act. The city’s original plan was to dig up streets and put in bigger pipes that could handle the growing city’s waste as well as the stormwater produced by every building, but this just wasn’t practical, it would cause major traffic jams and would cost the taxpayers millions. Instead, the city started the Green City, Clean Waters plan which promoted “green” ways of reducing stormwater runoff, from green roofs to rain barrels to sidewalk planters. Since 2011 the city has been giving away free rain barrels to citizens across the city along with incentives for citizens with green roofs.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) the same people who are behind the popular summertime pop up parks and Spruce Street Harbor park, teach the mandatory rain barrel class. After the hour long course you can sign up to have your rain barrel installed on a certain date – just like you do with the cable company. One week in December┬áa city worker pulled up in the front of our house and unloaded a bright blue rain barrel and brought it to the back of our house. Instillation if simple, he just drilled a 2” hole in our down pipe and inserted a small rubber circle in the shape of a crescent. This connects to an adjustable hose that runs into the rain barrel.

I love our rain barrel. I was surprised by how quickly it filled up, one rainstorm can get us anywhere from half full to brimming with water. I’m really surprised by how much water was going to waste every time it rained. The only bummer about the barrel is that you can’t use it to water your fruits and veggies or fill the chicken waterers with, if your roof is tar paper like ours is, there a good chance there are a lot of chemicals and gross junk floating around in your gray water, still though, we use it to water our new trees (which are also free from the city) and potted flowers around the yard. If you’d like a free rain barrel for yourself or just want to learn more visit┬áThe Philadelphia Water Department’s website.