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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

Environmental Group Teaches Vermonters To Build D.I.Y. Rain Barrels

Annie Russell
Roommates Lyndsey Eckler and Brittni Simmons build a rain barrel with help from Michael and Nathan Liskowacki.

Pollution from storm water runoff is a challenge that has long-faced the state of Vermont. Waterways like Lake Champlain can be damaged by storm water that has picked up chemicals and other harmful material.

There are a few measures homeowners can take to reduce their storm water runoff. Building a rain barrel is one.

At the Shelburne Town Offices, about a dozen families are learning to build rain barrels. The barrels will collect excess storm water- that’s water that normally runs off through gutters and into storm drains.

The Chittenden County Stream Team organized the event. That’s a project managed by Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. They hold events like this regularly to educate Vermonters about the issue.

The group says excess storm water from strong storms move quickly, and can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants. The water then flows untreated directly into a storm drain or waterways.

Laura Dlugolecki is teaching the workshop. She says it’s a relatively inexpensive, easy way to save water.

“Homeowners can use this water to water their gardens, their lawns,” said Dlugolecki. “The point is that after the storm, they let the water slowly absorb into the soil, when the soil can handle that amount of water.”

And the steps to building one aren’t complicated. Take a large container- most people use re-purposed 55 gallon drums- and make a few adjustments:

“At the bottom you have a spigot where the water comes out for your use. At the top you have an overflow valve. Then at the top you also need a place for the rainwater to enter. It’s where you’ll connect your down spout to the rain barrel,” said Dlugolecki

There’s one important modification to the entry point for the water.

“It’s very important that this area be screened. You don’t want mosquitos getting in there and reproducing,” said Dlugolecki.

Once the barrel is done, it can be placed at the bottom of a gutter.

Lyndsey Eckler is building a rain barrel with her roommate. Eckler lives in Winooski, and sees the barrel as a money-saving tool:

“We do some gardening, so we thought we could use it for that,” said Eckler. “Just saving what we would normally use our faucet outside for.”

Most of the materials needed tobuild a rain barrel are available at any hardware store.

While one rain barrel is only a drop in the bucket, the Stream Team’s hope is that with more awareness, the region will see less storm water runoff in local waterways.

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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