Inspiring exploration, appreciation, and conservation of our natural world.

If Only I Had a Rain Barrel

An account from Communications Coordinator, John Gessner

Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.” – Just one of his many famous quotes that still ring true today. Last summer was one of the driest in recorded history.  It also was the year I bought my first home, and thus, my first lawn, my first vegetable garden, my first flower pots… you get the idea.  As a first time home owner, you can imagine my surprise when I received my gut-wrenching, face-palm inducing, Lake Michigan size of a water/electric bill last July. As I don’t have air conditioning, and it’s just my wife and I, this increase was all the cost of pumping water to keep my grass alive and small plot of veggies green… If I only had a rain barrel!

On average, Traverse City receives about 9.5 inches of rain from June through August.  If I were to collect all the water that fell on my 1,000 square foot roof, that would amount to 5,922 gallons, or fill just over one hundred 55-gallon rain barrels full of clean, fresh, and FREE water!  Fortunately, all that rain doesn’t fall at once, and when we see extended dry spells like we have recently, I think we’d all be glad for every little bit of water we can save.  So, when we saw that 2-3 inches of rain on Monday (that’s 22 rain barrels full!), I remembered my water bill last summer, and went straight into work at the Boardman River Nature Center and bought myself a rain barrel. At just $69, it costs less than the increase I paid in that one water bill last summer.

Working for the Grand Traverse Conservation District, I have learned that rain barrels aren’t just a good way to save money, they are also an important tool for protecting Lake Michigan from polluted surface runoff and keeping sand and other sediments out of our rivers (great for those fly fishermen out there). If you live in Traverse City like I do, then rain barrels can also help take the stress off our stormwater system, which leads directly into the Boardman River, and thus Grand Traverse Bay.  My wife and I are also thinking about adding a rain garden to collect overflow from our rain barrel (it’ll help the birds, bees, and butterflies too, not to mention all the beauty it will add).

So, if any of this resonates with you, then I’d invite you in joining me in purchasing a rain barrel from the Boardman River Nature Center.  The barrels they offer are “up-cycled”, which means that they are repurposed 55-gallon food containers that have been fitted with 100% American made spigots, screens, and overflow valves.

The next time we receive a deluge, don’t find yourself in my shoes lamenting, “if I only had a rain barrel!”