Just in time for Earth Day on April 22 comes a new city program designed for residents to cut utility bills and save water.As part of our recent deck project, we put a rain barrel out to collect water off a small section of roof whose drain spout was blocked from running to the ground (pictured). At a maximum cost for water of less than $0.01 per gallon, it's not going save us a ton of money on water, and in fact, since we installed it about a month ago, we've hardly had enough rain to put much water in to it. Incidentally, Georgia made a "rain chain" out of old oyster shells we collected off the beach. Here's a link to the model of rain barrel "we" chose, but there are plenty of options.
Falls Church residents can act now to improve water quality and stormwater management, all with a tool that is the focus of a new program, “RainSmart,” developed by the partnership of the Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) and the City of Falls Church.
The program offers residents grants of $100 for two rain barrels (or $50 for one) and up to $1,500, or half the costs, for the design and installation of rain gardens and other conservation projects which have stormwater benefits.
May 4 is the deadline to apply for rain gardens’ grants, according to Jeff Peterson, a longtime VPIS board member who spearheaded the project for the organization.
“Stormwater management increasingly is an issue for the city and for residents,” Peterson said. “We continue hearing from people in town who have an issue with stormwater.”Any runoff from our yard has to run through the 100 ft of undeveloped forest behind our house to reach a small stream which leads to the Bay, so our contribution is very little.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says stormwater is harmful because it carries materials and chemicals washed into storm drains from streets, gutters, neighborhoods, parking lots and construction sites.
According to the EPA, this type of pollution is significant because stormwater is untreated and flows directly to a lake, river, or the ocean carrying pollutants like pesticides, bacteria and chemicals through city streets and straight to waters like the Chesapeake Bay.
Fairfax County says that because rain water is untreated, it is naturally softer than municipal water and is even better for washing cars, besides nurturing indoor and outdoor plants.
Residents can use the grants to buy rain barrels at local retailers or online, or build their own barrels and learn how to install and maintain them at workshops hosted by the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District.
Water stored in rain barrels won’t flow into streams and dump in the Chesapeake, but will flow into the ground and replenish groundwater supplies, according to VPIS. Also, by decreasing the volume of storm runoff, rain barrels help moderate stream erosion and pollution.