Save water, money, and the sewers with rain barrels

CREATED Apr 29, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - We could complain about all the rain we've had and that is still in the forecast, or we could make the rain work for us by harvesting it in a rain barrel.  And people in Milwaukee county are starting to do just that according to Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District Project Manager Breanne McDonald.

Since MMSD’s rain barrel program began in 2004, they have sold and donated more than 19,000 rain barrels which are stopping the rain from flowing through many gutters into the ground.  “One of the biggest things is that we're keeping rain water out of our sewer system and we're helping to essentially protect our rivers and lakes,” McDonald explains. 

And after an initial $49.95 investment (purchase at any of these locations), you could end up keeping more green on the ground and in your wallet.  “We have a lot of repeat customers where they'll buy one one year, come back the next year for more because they find the benefit of it with the amount of water they're saving is really great,” .McDonald adds.  Plus it can save up to 40% on your summer water bill according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“They're really easy to install, gets you free water to water your plants and outdoor needs with and they're also a great story for the community,” McDonald explains that MMSD has relationships with different community groups like Neu-Life Community Development to further the rain barrel program.  “Neulife just gives a place for kids to be after school, there's a lot of crime in this neighborhood, there's a lot of things that we want our kids to avoid and this is a place that kids can come and be safe,” Neu-Life Program Coordinator Tracy Hrajnoha tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka.

In a joint project with Lead to Succeed, a group of teens in Neu-Life developed a business called “Beasty Barrels” to transform MMSD donated blank barrels into works of art that will catch the rainwater.  “They sell them, they paint them, they market them, they do all aspects of the business so it’s really a teen lead project,” Hrajnoha explains.

Part of the business is knowing your product, which was a learning experience enough for some of the kids, “What is key is learning how scarce water is, that was something that was a big take-home.  So that's why they really appreciate rain barrels now, because most of the kids, they had no idea what they were in the beginning until they started learning about how important it is to save water.”

Combining the green rain barrels with their artistic talent was a perfect match for Neu-Life, “If you wanna make something a talking piece or something that's really beautiful in your yard, you might as well have that painted and what better way than to have it painted by kids who live in the neighborhood,” Hrajnoha adds.

The students are currently working to create a stockpile of painted rain barrels that will be sold at auction at their Youth Art Show on Saturday, May 10th from 11am to 1pm at Neu-Life Community Development.  Painted rain barrels start at $75 in their silent auction, other works will be for sale at 2014 W. North Avenue.