Group offers rain barrels
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 home.
Area residents may buy a rain barrel for about $55, thanks to a non-profit 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 CRWD.
The program is a natural fit with the work of the CRWD, he said; the staff is charged with and concerned about water treatment throughout the watershed, which includes parts of Mower, Freeborn, Steele and Dodge counties.
Much of the focus is on flood reduction, Hanson said, but the district is promoting 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 Austin initiative will order the same quality of rain barrels as the program in Rochester, he said.
The barrels are designed specifically to capture rain runoff from a home's gutters and drains, then hold it for use in and around the house. They also remove stress from the local water supply.
The barrel can hold roughly 55 gallons of rainwater.
Orders should be placed before spring, said Jim Stiles, owner of Super Fresh. He's also 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 for a barrel, he said.
"You just feel good about it being rain water — naturally soft water," Stiles said.
Earlier this year, the Cedar River ranked fifth on an annual top 10 list of America's "most endangered" rivers.
The CRWD covers nearly 300,000 acres; its purpose is to reduce flooding as well as protect and improve water quality in its streams.