by Tracey Kline
Three years ago, Lenke noticed a disturbing summer trend: hot dry periods accompanied by short bursts of rain, and skyrocketing water bills. He asked himself, why not make use of all that rainwater going to waste? This epiphany induced him to install an additional element to an already ecofriendly home: rain barrels.
“I knew it was going to require a lot of work,” he said, “but that it was the right thing to do.”
Once realizing the community impact of rain barrels, Lenke installed 7 tanks throughout the property, made out of repurposed olive shipping containers that he purchased for about $75 apiece. He also included some personal innovations. To protect against mosquitoes and pests, he covered the tanks with a screened-in lid, and then added an additional silk screen with wire mesh for filtration purposes. He then constructed a splash box for rapid capture, as well as a rock platform with a PVC drain for overflow and drainage. Though a firm advocate of rain barrels, Lenke candidly disclosed that his models require a lot of labor and maintenance.
Lenke’s barrels are highly innovative and technical, but not every barrel has to be so complex to be effective. Fellow Rutledge resident Marjorie Hatzell and her husband, for instance, use simple rain barrels stationed on cylinder blocks to water their lawn and vegetable gardens. They were introduced to rain barrels through the “Multi-municipal Environmental Action Committee Rain Barrel and Rain Garden Workshops Series,” a workshop jointly offered by the Swarthmore, Nether Providence, Rose Valley, and Rutledge EACs and the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watersheds Association. Details can be found at www.swarthmorepa.org.
Rain barrels are a simple way to reduce runoff pollution, providing a free water source and easing reliance on a city’s water supply. Though their economic payoff is admittedly minor –Lenke says that his 7 barrels account for only 4 percent of his annual water usage –their environmental benefit is invaluable.
Tracey Kline is a student at Boston College and an intern at aFewSteps, dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our community 20% by 2020.