You’ve noticed stormwater exiting your property and entering the drains and ditches nearby, but what can you do about it? Well, we have a couple of solutions you could implement using green stormwater infrastructure practices.

  1. Install a rain barrel
  2. Install a rain garden

Keep reading for tips on deciding which water conservation method will best suit your needs.

Rain Barrel Benefits and Installation

Installing a rain barrel is a relatively simple process; all you need is a 50-gallon drum, a spigot, a downspout, a hose, and voila! You’re ready to set up your rain barrel. Collect the rainwater in the barrel for storage and use later by placing your rain barrel at the end of an installed gutter. With all this rainwater, you can water your indoor and outdoor plants, clean the exterior of your house, wash your car, whatever you can think of, except consuming it.

Deciding where on your property is easy, you’ve got the gutters, now which corner? Well, it’s best to find a corner that receives the least amount of sunlight. Sunlight can contribute to algal and bacteria growth in your rain barrels.

Rain barrels have many benefits to reduce stormwater runoff.

  • The total flow of water from your property is reduced.
  • Reduced sediment and other pollutants entering storm drains and local waterways

The Environmental Protection Agency says you might even save up to 1,300 gallons of water during summer months after you install your rain barrel because you are reducing your water consumption from the tap. This water conservation practice could provide substantial financial savings and water conservation savings on your municipal water supply.

Since you are collecting and conserving rainwater, you’ll also save money on your municipal water bill or preserve well reserves for in-home water usage.

Rain barrels also aid in groundwater recharge by using a slow release of the water between rain events. Your plants will appreciate the rainwater that does not have iron and minerals that can build up from well water usage. It is not recommended using the collected water for edible plants because the water may contain contaminants from your roof.

Let’s evaluate whether a rain barrel is ideal. Review these bullets and decide which apply to your property.

  • You have gutters on your house
  • You have shaded space on one corner
  • You have a clean 50-gallon drum with a lid
  • You will use the water and can store the container during winter

If any of these apply, then a rain barrel is likely a good fit for your property. Have some fun and paint a beautiful design on your rain barrel.

Rain Garden Design and Use

Maybe you’re considering a rain garden, now this one is going to require a little more work to get started and depending on the style of garden, may require more upkeep, but it is doable and helps lake water quality.

When you install a rain garden, you are helping to encourage the absorption and infiltration of water running over your roof and driveway, which can carry chemicals and polluted water into the lake.

Similar to rain barrels, we encourage you to avoid planting edible plants in your rain garden for your health, but if you do, make sure to allow two weeks before harvest and to wash your produce or herbs thoroughly.

Does my property meet the ideal criteria for installing a rain garden?

  • Flat area; or build a berm if your property is on a slope
  • Area near the driveway or road
  • Want year-round stormwater management
  • Property owner

If you checked any of these boxes, then a rain garden might be ideal for your property.

Rain gardens have their benefits too:

  • Can absorb approximately 30% more water than your typical lawn, according to UVM Extension. 
  • Rain gardens save pollinators! 60-80% of wild plants in Vermont are dependent on pollinators.

Interestingly, a rain garden is often shaped like a bowl, and pools the water, so it takes two or three days to absorb fully. The slowed absorption is what prevents pollution from entering waterways leading to the lake.

Be sure to take some time and design the layout and the types of plants you will use in your garden. Plants that are weather hardy, and can withstand very moist and very dry conditions are ideal. How organized or wild your garden is, is up to you. Consider how much time you want to put into upkeep and maintenance. Check out the Vermont Rain Garden Manual for plant information and some basic rain garden designs.

Although, you could always install both and use the water from the rain barrel to water the rain garden during dry periods. These are just two methods to green infrastructure that you could easily apply now.

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