When it rains, some people aren’t content to just let all that water fall to earth – they’re collecting it in rain barrels.
“It saves water, but it’s also about making people aware that water is a precious resource,” said Tim Cranston, North Kingstown’s water-quality specialist. He coordinates the town’s water-barrel project.
That environmental awareness is important enough to the town that it subsidizes $25 of the $75 cost of the rain barrels, so residents get them for $50.
In the year-and-a-half since the program began, about 250 property owners in North Kingstown have become rain-barrel owners.
The program grew from the town’s groundwater committee, which has a simple mission of public education.
When municipal representatives talk to students about environmental issues, rain barrels are in the conversation.
“We go to schools, typically in third-grade classes, and talk about water and … if they’ve seen rain barrels,” said Cranston.
The North Kingstown program was implemented with the help of Beverly O’Keefe, whose small business, Rhode Island Water Lady, in South Kingstown, sells rain barrels in collaboration with the Great American Barrel Co. in Hyde Park, Mass.
“Beverly has been in the industry quite a while, in other positions, we’ve known her and we liked the idea of rain barrels,” said Cranston. “Most people go pick up their rain barrels from Beverly, but if someone is elderly or it’s a difficulty in any way, she will arrange for it to be delivered.”
North Kingstown’s rain barrels became a local focus on May 3 when the town sponsored a community event for residents to bring their rain barrels and personalize them by painting them. A small group of people participated, just one part of the educational mission to encourage residents to be aware of and protect natural resources, said Cranston
“People use that water mostly for vegetable or flower gardens,” said Cranston. “It helps people become more aware of all of our bodies of water in Rhode Island and our fisheries.”