In July, the City wrapped up their first Catch the Rain program to provide low-cost materials for Red Lodge residents to create rain barrel systems for their homes and businesses. This program was made possible by a partnership between the City, King’s Cupboard, and Red Lodge Area Community Foundation – plus enthusiasm from all the participants and volunteers! All told, the city provided 51 low-cost barrels and rain barrel hardware kits to 36 households. If each barrel saves 1,300 gallons annually, 66,300 gallons of stormwater runoff could be diverted each year from the Wastewater Treatment Plant and Rock Creek.
More rain barrels in town benefits everyone. The direct benefit to the rain barrel owner is free non-potable water collected from their roof to water their garden and lawn. It also makes sense for King’s Cupboard to allow community members direct access to their leftover 55-gallon barrels than to pursue recycling them, since that can be costly and energy-intensive. Without proper landscaping and rainwater management, urban runoff from roofs can make its way to Rock Creek or our Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). According to the Stormwater Master Plan, as much as 45% of the treated sewage at the WWTP in spring is derived from stormwater. Stormwater runoff does not require treatment and can bypass the wastewater treatment facility, so treating this spring runoff as sewage is estimated to cost the City over $10,000 annually in wasted energy use. Aside from the financial costs, it is also a public health and safety concern as City employees must deal with the excess flow into the WWTP to prevent flooding of the plant. Diverting some of this runoff into rain barrels, coupled with water-wise irrigation systems and rain gardens, will help reduce this stormwater infiltration while we implement larger diversion projects.
Overall, this was a very successful program and blew the original goal of selling 30 barrels out of the water! Anyone interested in hearing more about how to build a stormwater collection system or get updates on any future Catch the Rain campaigns can contact email@example.com.