Unity Charter School Rain Barrel Workshop: Conserving Water

Written by Peter. Posted in 07960, Education, Sustainability, Whole Child Education

On Saturday April 21st, I attended a family workshop on how to make a rain barrel.  This was one of those tasks that I knew I could handle on my own, but I wasn’t getting around to it.  The workshop was the perfect way that, once again, Unity pushed my good intentions into real actions to help the earth. We lucked out weather-wise, and met outside on the Unity Charter School playground.  Families with kids young and old each received a blue food-grade barrel and a rain barrel kit.  Joe Dunn, from the Morris County Soil Conservation District, walked us through the process step by step.
unity charter school families lear  how to make a rain barrel

UCS families at rain barrel workshop

It was fun watching kids and parents working together.  Some of the kids were using a power drill for the first time; some were just excited to wear safety goggles!  But all the participants left with rain barrels ready to install.  All told, our rain barrels will capture 29,000 gallons of rainwater for re-use this year.  The written instructions include information on how to connect your rain barrel to timers, soaker hoses, or just a hose.  For me, I’m excited to get a water source closer to our garden bed. A rain barrel works by collecting water from rain gutters for future use for watering vegetable gardens, flowers, or shrubs.  Old style rain barrels had fancy overflow set-ups to protect against flooding the container; Joe’s kits included a gutter adaptor that diverts water into the rain barrel until full.  Once at capacity, the water bypasses the rain barrel and simply continues to funnel into the downspout.  This makes for a much cleaner look, and only 1 hole to drill in your downspout.  The kit includes a hole cover for winterizing your downspouts as well.
A UCS student drills a hole in a rain barrel with help from parent

Power tools are fun.

I was concerned that my garage roof wouldn’t be big enough to collect enough water to make it worthwhile, but was surprised to learn that it only takes a quarter of an inch of rain on an average roof to fill a rain barrel!  Even my garage roof would use the overflow diverter.   Using this water instead of my hose spigot, I can reduce my city water use 1500 gallons/year! The cost of the workshop was $65, and included a pre-washed food grade barrel, rain barrel fittings kit (with hole saw drill bits included!), and instructions.   The Morris County Soil Conservation District has barrels from time to time, so if you are interested in purchasing a kit or running a similar workshop, contact Joe at 973-285-2953 or by e-mailing the office at morris@mcscd.org. Many thanks to Joe Dunn for running the workshop, as well as Unity parent Sonya Williams and UCS teacher Jen Carcich for coordinating the event at school.  It was a very impactful way to spend an hour on a Saturday morning!

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