Harvesting rain and feeding neighbors

Zell_7By Emily Hagin

James Zell and his wife, Anne, are avid gardeners who enjoy growing fresh fruits and vegetables for their neighbors. They donate the majority of the food they grow on their Clark Street lot to the community food bank.

In response to growing concerns about summer drought, Zell attended a rain barrel workshop last spring to learn how to reduce outdoor water use by using stormwater run-off to irrigate. The city of Blaine, Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) and Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District (BBWARM) hosted the workshop.

Zell successfully installed his first barrel immediately after taking the workshop and was shocked to discover that it only took one-tenth of an inch of rain to completely fill the barrel. This inspired him to install more barrels on his property. He now has a total of eight barrels connected to soaker hoses irrigating his garden. The Zell household is one of 244 in the Blaine and Birch Bay area that have attended a rain barrel workshop since 2011. Attendees have installed approximately 185 barrels around Blaine and Birch Bay.

Zell said he encourages everyone to install rain barrels on their property. The benefits outweigh the barriers, and it is a simple way to help the community and environment.

“Don’t be afraid. It is completely doable,” he said. The only obstacle he faced when installing his barrels was lifting and stacking the concrete blocks to create a stable base. Other than that, it was trial and error to figure out the best configuration for his house.

The city and BBWSD are teaming up with BBWARM again to host two rain barrel workshops this spring for residents of Blaine and Birch Bay. The workshops will cover the basic principles of rainwater collection and its benefit to water supply and stormwater management as well as hands-on instruction in installing and maintaining your rain barrel. Zell will be at both workshops to speak about his own experience. Each workshop is limited to 20 households.  Registered participants will take home a pre-drilled 55-gallon barrel.

The workshops will be held at the BBWSD office on Thursday, April 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. and at the Blaine Senior Center on Saturday, April 23 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., rain or shine. The workshops are free, but registration is required. Register online at bbwarm.whatcomcounty.org or contact Ingrid Enschede at 360/778-6229.

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