Development News

Northern Kentucky to pilot rain barrel program

Northern Kentucky’s Sanitation District No. 1 is now taking orders for a pilot rain barrel program, joining the ranks of Mt. Airy and Lexington, Kentucky.

These particular rain barrels were devised by two Lexington, Kentucky women, who developed a rain barrel that collected storm water while doubling as a plant urn with a self-watering wick. The barrel was designed to be aesthetically pleasing, with a spigot for a water hose or for a pail.

“Lily,” as it was dubbed, was available for purchase to the first 500 residents for only $75, with the city contributing an additional $75 towards the total cost. Although it was released as a pilot program to raise the region’s environmental conscious, the city sold 500 within the first 24 hours.

But why rain barrels?

  • A rain barrel can save money by storing water that can be used for future use. Lawn and garden watering can consume up to 50% of total water usage for a typical household during the summer months. A rain barrel can reduce that usage by 1,300 gallons; one inch of rain on 1,000 square feet can create over 600 gallons of storm water.
  • Foundation walls can be preserved. During extended dry periods, homeowners with basements must water around their foundations to keep them from suffering from the damaging affects of expansive clay soils. A rain barrel with a hose is a perfect way to keep the soils moist. A rain barrel reduces potential flooding in basements. A rain barrel with a soaker hose will slowly release water so that it does not cause ground water problems along a foundation, and will reduce the chance that rain water seeps into a basement.
  • A rain barrel provides a natural water source with a pH level lower than that of potable water. This makes it ideal to water plants and gardens.
  • Rain barrels used throughout a community can control runoff from developed lands, and can reduce the need for massive retention ponds and detention basins that waste space in an urbanized environment. They also reduce direct runoff. Water, as it flows through downspouts and across lawns and driveways, accumulate animal wastes, automotive chemicals and oils, and debris from lawn. While it is inevitable that these will end up in the streams regardless, downspouts aggravate the issue by providing a greater velocity to flush the pollutants into the drainage system. Rain barrels slow down the water and let it soak into the ground.
  • Rain barrels also allow the groundwater to recharge.

Locally, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a project in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Mt. Airy dubbed “Mt. Airy Rain Catchers” to install rain gardens and rain barrels throughout the neighborhood. The goal was to evaluate how these individual actions can improve local water quality via continuous monitoring of Shepherd Creek pre- and post-improvements. Each residence was eligible to receive up to four rain barrels and one rain garden, with all costs borne by the EPA.

The first installation of a rain barrel was at the Mt. Airy Arboretum building, and with the construction of two demonstration rain gardens at the park in the summer of 2007. This was followed up with the installation of 50 rain gardens and 100 rain barrels throughout the neighborhood. In the spring of 2008, EPA installed 31 additional rain gardens and 60 rain barrels.

Now, Northern Kentucky’s Sanitation District No. 1 is taking orders for its pilot rain barrel program with the hopes that it will reduce storm water runoff, improve water quality and promote water conservation. The push came after residents for years have inquired as to where to purchase rain barrels, and after an article was published in “What’s Happening! in Boone County, Kentucky.” The “Raintainer,” otherwise known as the “Lily,” is being sold for $124.88. One can also find rain barrels for sale at Park+Vine along Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine.

Photo Credit: Guy Marsden

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.