Rain barrels an easy way to lower water bills and conserve

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Rain barrel workshops held by Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD), Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management (BBWARM) and the city of Blaine have helped hundreds of Whatcom County residents conserve water and reduce their water bills with a homemade rainwater harvesting system.

A rain barrel is used for collecting and storing stormwater runoff from the roof. The water collected in a rain barrel can be used for watering gardens, shrubs and lawns, which reduces the demand on city or well water. That can be especially important during dry summer months.

Held every spring for five years running, the free workshops supply participants with a 55-gallon drum, instructions and tools to set up a rain barrel at home. Held over two weekends and designed for up to 20 households at a time, the workshops have sold out every year so far.

Ingrid Enschede, program specialist for BBWARM, and Emily Hagin, conservation program coordinator for BBWSD, ran this year’s workshop on March 25 and 28. Although creating a rainwater harvesting system may sound complicated, Hagin said it’s actually very simple.

“Anyone can do it. You don’t need any specialized knowledge or complex tools,” Hagin said. A step-drill bit can make the process easier but isn’t necessary, and one is available for workshop participants to use at the BBWSD office in Birch Bay, Hagin added.

Rain barrels help lessen the initial impacts of heavy rain events, reducing erosion and flooding. While one 55-gallon drum might not make a measurable difference, the collective effects of hundreds of rain barrels in a community might play a role in reducing the flooding, erosion and pollution caused by stormwater runoff from roofs.

“One individual action, when multiplied, can have a big impact on the community,” Hagin said.

For information about how to install your own rain barrel, go to tinyurl.com/rainbarrelworkshop.

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