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Barrels make the most of rainwater

Rain hitting your roof could be the sound of savings — on utilities and water — if you have a rain barrel to capture it for use around the house.

Area residents may buy a rain barrel for about $55, thanks to a nonprofit initiative being offered by the Cedar River Watershed District, in conjunction with Super Fresh Produce and Garden Center in Austin. Customers of Austin, Rochester or Owatonna public utilities may also apply for a $10 rebate on the purchase.

Most rain barrels cost more than $100 in retail stores, said Justin Hanson, resource specialist for agency.

The program is a natural fit with the work of the watershed district, he said. The staff is concerned with water treatment throughout the watershed, which covers nearly 300,000 acres in parts of Mower, Freeborn, Steele and Dodge counties. Much of the focus is on flood reduction, Hanson said, but the district promotes water conservation as part of preserving long-term water use.

Diverting water from storm drains with the use of a rain barrel also decreases the effect of runoff on the watershed's rivers and streams.


"We highly recommend reserving a barrel," Hanson said. "The rain barrels have been very popular in Rochester; people lined up for hours just to get one."

The barrels capture rain runoff from residential gutters and drains and hold it for use in and around the house. They also remove stress from the local water supply. A barrel can hold roughly 55 gallons of water.

Orders should be placed before next spring, said Jim Stiles, owner of Super Fresh and president of the local Izaak Walton League, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the soil, air, woods and water.

Nearly 25 people have already signed up, he said.

Earlier this year, the Cedar River ranked fifth on an annual top 10 list of America's "most endangered" rivers.

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