Rainbarrels and raingardens

Posted on March 23, 2011 by Erin Cummisford

Now that the calendar says it’s officially spring, one of God’s most precious gifts should regularly start falling from the heavens – water.  The Bible is full of references to water, and it is through water that we are baptized.  Water is a wonderful gift, but can often be taken for granted, or even become destructive.  This year when the rain comes, I encourage you to manage the water that falls into your yard (or church property!) in an environmentally friendly manner. 

How does rainwater management relate to care of God’s creation?  During a rainstorm, the excess water that isn’t immediately absorbed into the ground runs off your property, carrying any chemicals you may use on your lawn.  It travels across your driveway/sidewalk/street/parking lot gathering chemicals along the way, and into the storm sewer system.   This water ends up in local streams, rivers and lakes – as well as the contaminants it has picked up on the way.   Not only is this contamination harmful to aquatic plants and animals, but also to people who eat the fish from the lake, or take a swim at the beach.  It can also result in higher costs to treat that water if the polluted water happens to be a source of drinking water.  Excess rainwater can also cause erosion and flooding. 

Installing a rain barrel (or two) at your house and/or congregation is both environmentally and financially advantageous.  The rain barrel collects the water from a downspout, and saves it for future use in watering plants, gardens, or grass.  If you are a gardener, or just like to water your grass, using water from your rain barrel will also save you money.  It is also better for your plants as the water hasn’t been chemically treated.

Anything that slows down the flow of water helps recharge the water table by increasing the amount of time the water has to soak into the ground, rather than becoming storm water runoff.  A rain barrel reserves the excess water to future use, but a rain garden is another way to slow down the flow of water.  A rain garden is an area where excess rainwater is diverted after a storm and allowed to pool.  This area is planted with native plants that like “wet feet” and will allow the water to gradually recede. Here in the Midwest, plants like Queen of the Prairie, Blue Flag Iris and Obedient plant will thrive in these seasonally wet conditions and attract wildlife to your yard. 

Instead of allowing God’s precious gift of water to rush through your yard and into the nearest stream, I encourage you to slow that water down and enjoy it.  During the heat of the summer, it is refreshing to take advantage of saved spring rains to revive your thirsty plants. 

Rain barrels can be purchased online, or at local retailers.  You can even build your own –there are many different sites online that provide instructions.  What plants are native where you live?  Check out information about native plants that thrive in your area, as well as nurseries that sell them, at www.plantnative.org.  My neighborhood hosts a native plant business during the growing season (www.EarthWildGardens.com), but if you’re looking for mail order native plants suited to the Midwest, try Prairie Moon Nursery (http://www.prairiemoon.com).  Welcome to spring!

Erin Cummisford

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