Rain barrels offer a way to reduce water costs, prevent runoff

“You’re collecting rainwater instead of letting it run down the street,” said Maria Rose, environmental engineer for the city of Newton. “When it rains, stormwater picks up pollutants along the way.”

Rose said pollutants such as trash and oil were on the streets. She said it is best to capture stormwater directly from rainfall, which reduces the risk of pollution.

“There are over 326 million trillion gallons of water on Earth. Yet only 1% is fresh and available for human consumption,” according to The Great American Rain Barrel website.

Newton City Council member Emily Norton said the runoff takes with it “everything that’s on those paved surfaces like fertilizer, animal waste and leaves.” Although the leaves are natural, she says, when they end up in bodies of water, the nutrients can lead to invasive species and bacteria.

“We have a phosphorus pollution problem in the Charles River,” Norton said. “You ideally want to collect that water and reuse it on your property.”

Norton said the more rainwater that goes back into the ground and not into the storm drains, the better.

“These storm drains aren’t processing anything,” Norton said. “It’s not like the sewage treatment plant that has all sorts of processes to treat the water before it’s discharged.”

Rose said the Department of Public Works offers rain barrels in early May because summer brings higher water bills and water usage. Hot summer droughts contribute to increased water use when watering plants, lawns and gardens, she said, so storing rainwater from rain barrels helps reduce costs and resources.

Norton said residents would be “more resilient” during a drought if they had a rain barrel. “We suddenly have much more frequent droughts,” she said, explaining that droughts have been more frequent in recent years.

Another reason residents may be interested in buying a rain barrel is to save money when watering, Rose said, and the amount each household will save depends heavily on the weather. , the use of rainwater and the number of barrels per family.

Newton’s water supply is generated by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, Norton said. “Our water is expensive,” Norton said. “We have excellent water, it tastes good, it is very clean, but it is very expensive.” Norton said residents can save on their water bills by using rainwater to water their gardens and lawns.

Rose said last year was the first year for Newton to provide rain barrels to residents after a hiatus of a few years.

There was an influx of interest last year due to years the barrels weren’t offered, Rose said, and the pandemic played a part in the increase in sales – with 108 barrels sold in 2021.

“During the pandemic, there have been more people spending time on their own property. Therefore, there is more interest in rain barrels,” Rose said.

According to the Great American Rain Barrel website, approximately 40% of household water is used outdoors, although gardens and lawns actually benefit more from natural rainwater.

“Rainwater is a healthy source of chlorine-free, chemical-free water for plants,” Rose said.

For more information visit: www.greatamericanrainbarrel.com/community/newton/

Hannah DiPilato and Kendall Richards can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.

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