Harnessing the Rain

Last April, DuPage County saw nearly two and a half inches of rain. So what do you do with all that extra water?

For long time Naperville residents Mary Lou Wehrli and Herb Nadelhoffer, the answer was to buy a rain barrel. Wehrli is a member of the Conservation Foundation and learned about their annual rain barrel sale last year and brought home two barrels. Now with winter winding down, it’s once again time to set up the barrels for the upcoming wet season.

“You are in fact diverting natural rain from the sky onto your lawn and vegetation,” said Wehrli.

This is the fifth year the Conservation Foundation has sold the 55 gallon rain barrels, and this year they’re partnering with the Park District.

To assemble, you simply need a higher foundation for the barrel and a gutter on your roof with a downspout. The barrels have a screen on the top to keep out mosquitoes and debris.

So what are you supposed to do with all the water once you collect it?

“We have this whole big roof here and all the water going off just anywhere so we thought we’d put it in barrels,” said Nadelhoffer. “Then we can use this rain water to water the oak trees.”

“When the rain event’s done and the sun comes out and the lawn and the plants dry again, it’s really nice to be able to go and plug into the rain barrel,” said Wehrli. “It’s nice to be able to give them an extra drink and empty the rain barrels so it’s ready for the next rain.”

Wehrli and Nadelhoffer went through about 20 barrels last year. And while the water is not drinkable to humans, it’s perfect for plants and wildlife.

“The water that you would be using in your garden would not be treated with chlorine or fluoride,” said Peggy Pelkonen, Project Manager for the Naperville Park District. “It would be straight rain water. It’s healthier for plants. You’re not running your hose. It’s an overall great way to control storm water.”

“It’s better water, it’s rich in minerals, and it’s soft water and it’s free,” said Jim Kleinwachter, Land Preservation Specialist and Home Program Manager for the Conservation Foundation. “It’s perfect for watering plants and hanging baskets, we advocate rain gardens and native plants so that butterflies and birds have food and wildlife habitat.”

The 55 gallon barrels only save residents about 15 cents per barrel, but the end result of conserving water is priceless.

“The rain is our last unregulated activity. It just falls free from the heavens,” said Nadelhoffer.

“We’re kind of going back and appreciating nature what it gives us for free, and we just want to take advantage of that,” said Wehrli.

The Park District and the Conservation Foundation have sold nearly 400 rain barrels already, and will continue to sell them through April 13th.

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