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The Gazette KCRG
Posted January 27, 2010
Can Iowans help reduce flooding with the Million Gallon Challenge?


This is the 65-gallon "Moby" rain barrel that the Indian Creek Nature Center is selling. (photo/Lynn Ruck)

This is the 65-gallon "Moby" rain barrel that the Indian Creek Nature Center is selling. (photo/Lynn Ruck)

   For years, I’ve wanted a rain barrel and now I have an easy way to get one. The Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids is selling 65-gallon rain barrels as part of its Million Gallon Challenge to help reduce stormwater runoff. Lynn Ruck, co-owner of Rain Water Solutions, Inc. of Raleigh N.C., sent these photos so you can see what the barrels looks like. See the company’s Web site at: www.RainWaterSolutions.com

   If you’d prefer to make your own, the Nature Center can help with that, too. Here is info about an upcoming workshop:  Sat., Feb. 6, 1 p.m., Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, GREEN & SIMPLE: RAIN BARREL BUILDING WORKSHOP. Member -$40; Nonmember – $50. Cost includes a materials fee. EVERY GALLON COUNTS! Capture your home roof runoff and keep it from entering the local creek by converting a recycled, blue 55-gallon drum into a rain barrel. The resulting free water supply can be used for gardening and other yard projects. Master Gardener Deb Walser will lead this workshop. CALL 362-0664 BY 4 PM ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 29 TO REGISTER.  

And here is more about the Nature Center’s Million Gallon Challenge:



      The Indian Creek Nature Center, a Cedar Rapids based nonprofit, is challenging Iowans to reduce flooding at its source.

      “Flooding is worsened when rain pours off roofs, driveways, and parking lots and rushes down storm sewers into streams and rivers,” said Don Johnson, a Nature Center Board Member.  “The best way to prevent flooding is to mimic nature and encourage water to be absorbed into the ground.  A rain barrel allows homeowners to capture run off and direct it towards plants and gardens when the soil is able to absorb the water the way nature intended.”  


The rain barrels have bug-proof lids so the water doesn't become a mosquito breeding ground. (photo/Lynn Ruck)

The rain barrels have bug-proof lids so the water doesn't become a mosquito breeding ground. (photo/Lynn Ruck)

 Among the many techniques for reducing runoff, placing rain barrels under gutter downspouts is one of the easiest for a homeowner to implement.   The rain barrels collect roof water during storms and enable landowners to use it a week or two later to irrigate lawns and gardens.  Every gallon held in a rain barrel is one that won’t cause mischief downstream.

      The Nature Center is initiating the MILLION GALLON CHALLENGE as an Earth Day Project.  “Our goal is to have 1,000 rain barrels put in place between April 22nd, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and the 2nd anniversary of the flood on June 13, 2010” continued Johnson.  “However, I can’t think of a reason why every homeowner wouldn’t want to participate in this challenge,” he said.

      Each rain barrel holds 65 gallons of water.  In a typical season, 1,000 rain barrels should reduce runoff by one million gallons while providing free irrigation water to homeowners.  Although that’s a small percentage of urban runoff, it will help reduce flooding.  The Nature Center’s mantra is   EVERY GALLON COUNTS.

      To make rain barrel installation easy, the Nature Center is partnering with Rain Water Solutions, a company that manufactures attractive 65 gallon units called “The Moby”.     They are made in the USA of recycled plastic and have a brass hose tap, locking lid, and cover that helps prevents bugs from getting into the barrel.   Moby’s are light enough for most people to easily carry, fit in the back of most four door cars, and come with installation instructions.  They are constructed so that it is easy to link two or more together for additional rain harvest. 

      The Moby costs $100 each when purchased directly through the Indian Creek Nature Center’s website: www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org

  You can also purchase The Moby by sending a check, in the amount of $100 made payable to the Indian Creek Nature Center, to 6665 Otis Road, SE, Cedar Rapids, IA  52403.  Please write “Rain Barrel Project” on the check and include a phone number…  Truckloads of rain barrels will be delivered to the Nature Center’s parking lot to be picked up by the purchasers.  The Nature Center will notify purchasers at a later time of the exact pickup dates and times.   

Spigots can be attached to make water retrieval easy. (photo/Lynn Ruck)

Spigots can be attached to make water retrieval easy. (photo/Lynn Ruck)

      Although rain barrels are an effective way for people to reduce runoff there are many other simple techniques that property owners can use to help water percolate into the ground.  Simply directing gutter downspout water to a vegetated surface instead of pavement helps.  Also, mowing lawns at a higher level enables grass to send roots deeper. Lawns with taller grass tend to absorb water more readily than closely clipped turf, and replacing lawns with prairie or woodland vegetation can greatly increase the soil’s ability to absorb water.

      “The Nature Center’s goal is to help people do whatever they can to reduce runoff at its source.  We want rain to go into the soil, not someone’s basement,” continued Johnson.

 More info is in the Jan. 27, 2010, edition of The Gazette.

Two rain barrels can be hooked together to collect twice as much runoff. (photo/Lynn Ruck)

Two rain barrels can be hooked together to collect twice as much runoff. (photo/Lynn Ruck)

25 Responses to Can Iowans help reduce flooding with the Million Gallon Challenge?

  1. Good luck with this project. I don't think I am going to spend a $100 dollars for one of these rain barrels. $40 for a workshop? Go online and get all the info you need for free. Also, if you buy one of these rain barrels, be sure to secure them down as they will be favorite targets of theives. Also be sure to empty them between rains, or they will become great breeding grounds for mosquitos.

  2. I don't understand the merit in this. The Cedar River runs at about 40,000 gal per sec when it is at 8 ft. So it only takes it about 25 sec to drain 1 million gallons. If a barrel held 50 gallons, it would take 20,000 barrels to hold a million gallons. At $100 per barrel, we would spend $2 Million to hold 25 seconds of river flow.

    Does this make sense to anyone?

    • Like the article says, every gallon counts. The cost per gallon saved might be high as you point out but at least this program is not coming at you from DC. It's a local program and you can choose to participate as you like.

    • I must say – these garbage-can looking barrels would not add much to the attractiveness of my home or neighborhood. Yes, you may have nice looking plants around them that get free recycled water but people are only going to be seeing the ugly rain barrels and not the plants so you might as well not have any decorative plants at all.

    • I'm not sure if its really fiscally reasonable, but I'll point out a few other things to "modify" the equation.

      First, the $100 barrel can be used more than once.

      Second, to reduce flooding you don't need to completely stop the river, just keep it from rising. Every millimeter can make a difference.

      Third, every gallon used this way is one less gallon you have to pay the city for when watering plants, lawns, etc.

      Having said all that, they are a bit of a hassle to use properly. Overall I don't think they're a "win" for me, but I can see the benefit.

      I'll note that I've also seen some new-home construction projects where there's a 500-1000 gallon tank buried underground for run-off. They're tied into a small water pump for watering gardens and even lawn sprinkler systems.

    • As an avid "green" gardener, I am very interested. You can save a good chunk of change by "recycling" water.

    • Rich Patterson sent the following to further clarify:
      The amount of water going down the river is immense. Same with Indian Creek when it is in flash flood. Rain barrels only hold a tiny percent of river water, but there are many good reasons for rain barrels: Rain barrels are just a start. If everyone would do one or two small things it will have a collective difference. Someone has to take the first step instead of pointing fingers. If we start with rain barrels and then move onward to rain gardens and then onward to permeable paving and then to ag buffer strops and grassing over steep slopes all of these actions COLLECTIVELY will help. (more…)

    • Here is the second half of Rich Patterson's message:
      Remember that the pedestrian bridge over Indian Creek by the parking lot survived the 1993, 2002 and 2008 floods without being damaged but was moved and damaged in 2009……possibly because the crest last year was just slightly higher than the other floods……..it just may be that 1000 rain barrels up the watershed would have made the difference and kept just enough water out of the creek that the bridge would have held. No one knows, of course, but we need to encourage people to take any action they can to help.

      • I think the issue here is effectiveness. I am reasonably sure that the city engineers or the Army Corp of Engineers could think of at least 5 things to spend $2M on that would be far more effective for flood control.

  3. Somehow I am disappointed in the response to this article.

    • I can understand that. I'm a little disappointed in my own response, but I can't honestly say its a "win" for me. I'd like to try it and see how it would really work out, but $100 for a try-it-and-see is a bit steep for me. Maybe if I considered that I might be able to sell it if I decided it wasn't working…

      I'm trying to talk myself into it… but so far Uncle Scrooge is winning.

      • Then go online and get instructions to make one yourself if you don't want to pay for this one.

      • Well, you could look at this way, I don't know if you garden, or water your lawn, but you could save quit a bit of money by using rain water. You can get a spigot and hose, maybe even use it to wash your car….you only buy it once and it lasts forever…pretty much.

    • Trying to "brainstorm" ideas that might induce me (and maybe others) to take the plunge…

      Maybe if the Nature Center had a buy-back (Re-use) program where I knew if I didn't like it, they would buy it back for $40-50 and resell used ones for $50-75? Seems like that would be a win for everyone and insure that the ones out there are really being used.

  4. These barrels are a great idea. If more people in CR and Marion would participate in this program, it could help with flooding.
    Too many people are paving everything, in the mistaken belief that it's more attractive and are causing flood problems down the road.

  5. If everybody in Cedar Rapids would have turned on their faucets during the flood, all that water would have been pulled out along Shaver Rd and dumped at the sewage plant below town. This makes as much sense.
    If you get a warm, fuzzy feeling, go for it. As long as it's your $100 and not mine, that's just fine.

    • Not quite the same. People won't be using the water stored in the barrels while the ground is still saturated. I don't know how much of a practical impact that really has for reducing flooding, but it is essentially a " water reservoir".

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