New sustainability program offers free rain barrels


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Brian Miller (9th) told The Daily that the city’s new sustainability program offering free rain barrels to residents would help conserve the water that the city treats at its plant. City Council approved the program at Monday’s meeting.

Amanda Svachula, Assistant A&E Editor

Aldermen approved Monday a new sustainability program that makes available free rain barrels for residents to collect and reuse rainwater.

The initiative, organized with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, distributes free 55-gallon barrels to Evanston residents to conserve water, reduce flooding and decrease rainwater overflow in sewage systems. The captured water is commonly used to water yards, plants and gardens.

Ald. Brian Miller (9th) said while many Evanston residents already use rain barrels in their yards, the new program is likely to increase the use of barrels, saving the city more water. When residents use rainwater to water their lawns or wash their cars, they cut out the step of treating the water and conserve resources from the city’s water plant, Miller said.

“It’s a really great program for folks who like to think about reusing things,” said Kumar Jensen, an Evanston sustainability fellow. “It’s a great opportunity, and it’s a low-tech solution for re-using water.”

By encouraging residents to capture rainwater on their properties and to use it for other purposes, the city will also see a decrease in the amount of storm water overflow, Jensen said. Many areas of Evanston use combined sewage overflow systems, which collect and transport both rainwater and sewage, he said.

“If you have a lot of rain ending up there, it can overflow and you can get raw sewage overflow,” he added.

The program also aims to reduce the spread of pesticides in local soil as the rain barrels collect water before it carries chemicals across the ground.

Officials were able to bring the program to the city because the MWRD revised its eligibility requirements, making all towns in Cook County eligible, Jensen said.

The MWRD does not charge for participation in the program for the order and delivery of rain barrels. The program is open to residential property owners, but occupants of commercial can purchase rain barrels through the MWRD website.

To receive a rain barrel, residents can fill out an application on the city’s website. Once Evanston’s Office of Sustainability reviews the applications, rain barrels and instructions for installation will be delivered to residences.

The rain barrels program is a good option for residents looking to live more sustainable lifestyles, Jensen said.

Although Miller said the lawn of his townhouse is too small to warrant applying for a rain barrel, he encourages other residents to consider the program to decrease their individual footprint as well as strengthen the city’s sustainability efforts.

Julia Jacobs contributed reporting.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @amandasvachula