January 18, 2016

5 Cities That Want Your Rain Barrel - Photo courtesy Barb Howe/Flickr (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Courtesy barb howe/Flickr

While two states (Utah and Colorado) are limiting residents’ rights to harvest rainwater from their own rooftops, cities across the country are finding the benefit in rainwater use, encouraging residents to collect it and put it to work. Incentives range from free rain barrels to tax credits and reimbursement for rainwater-diversion installments, such as rain barrels, rain gardens and cisterns.

“When coupled with an educational program, rain barrels are a fantastic education and outreach program to engage citizens in storm- water issues,” says Mike Ruck, vice president of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association and cofounder and Chief Water Officer of rainwater-harvesting-system installer Rain Water Solutions in Raleigh, N.C. “Storm water is the leading cause of water pollution in the U.S., and getting people involved in a house-by-house approach can yield very positive results. Not to mention, rainwater is great for irrigation—no ammonia, fluoride, chlorine, et cetera.”

Here are five communities that know what’s up (the rain) and are down (in a rain barrel) with putting it to work.

1. Montgomery County, Md.

The county-wide RainScapes Program has designated RainScapes Neighborhoods, which are identified as needing more intensive storm-water management. In these areas, the county is working directly with property owners to install greenroofs, permeable pavement, rain gardens, and rain barrels and cisterns. These projects help slow rainwater runoff, so the water soaks into your lawn or garden instead of going down the sewer and into our streams.

Montgomery County RainScapes Neighborhoods include Glen Echo Heights, Wheaton Woods, KenGar, Stoneybrook/Parkside, Chevy Chase, Breewood, Forest Estates, Garrett Park and Sligo Park Hills. If you own property in one of these areas, you still qualify for rebates of up to $2,500 for rain barrel and other storm-water-management installations. The Montgomery County towns of Gaithersburg and Rockville have individual programs for them, too.

2. Tucson, Ariz.

Get paid for your rain barrel and get a free class about rainwater harvesting if you live in this southwestern urban hub. The City of Tuscon—known for limited water resources—estimates that 45 percent of water is used for outdoor irrigation. Their Water Smart Rainwater Harvesting Incentives Rebate Program starts with a three-hour workshop that explains rainwater harvesting and equips you to develop your own water-collection plan. Rebates are based on the gallon capacity of your rain barrel or cistern system—up to $2,000.

“We have found that the most successful programs have to be combined with an education element so homeowners understand how [a rain barrel] works, its limitations and required maintenance,” Ruck says.

3. North Carolina—The Whole State!

Every property owner in North Carolina not involved in agricultural production is eligible for the Community Conservation Assistance Program. State officials here now recognize that fast-growing cities are taking their toll on water quality and want to get residents on-board with more responsible storm-water management. You can get financial and technical and financial assistance for rain barrel and other storm-water-management projects through local soil and water conservation districts, with up to 75 percent of the project cost paid for.

4. Austin, Texas

One thing that’s not weird in Austin is the city’s desire to reduce the burden on its sewer systems. You can get a rebate [http://www.austintexas.gov/department/rainwater-harvesting-rebates] of $0.50 to $1 per gallon for rain barrel and rainwater-catchment systems, not to exceed 50 percent of the project cost, with a maximum rebate of $5,000 over a lifetime. This rebate does not cover homemade rain barrels, which actually is weird—in a bad way, Austin.

5. Washington, D.C.

In the nation’s capital, you have a choice: get paid for installing your own rain barrel or have one installed for you —cheap!

The District Department of Environment RiverSmart Homes program will install up to two rain barrels at $45 each. This is a sweet deal considering it includes a filtration system, a downspout diverter, four cement blocks, tubing to connect the barrel to the downspout and a soaker hose. It figures that a lot of people would want to take advantage of these RiverSmart rain barrels, so there is a waiting list of several months.

For D.C.’s DIYers, you can get a rebate of $1 per gallon if your rain barrel is a minimum of 50 gallons—up to $500 for rain barrels and cisterns.

This is just a sampling of places that are being proactive about citizens’ rain barrel use. There are hundreds of rebate and incentive programs out there, so check with your municipal water provider about their current offerings.

“Rain barrels run from $50 to $250-plus, and installation is typically $40 to $100 each but can vary depending on location,” Ruck says. Based on where you live, rain barrel installation could be a sound environmental and financial decision, especially if you have a good use for all of that water you’re diverting from the sewage system.

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About the Author: Freelance writer Lisa Munniksma blogs about small-scale ag news and opinions at www.hobbyfarms.com/newshog and about her round-the-world sustainable-living and -farming adventures at www.freelancefarmerchick.com.


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