More than 150 elementary school students and 30 educators from Bay County, Mich., have found a way to beautify their community while saving money on water bills.

Five area schools and extracurricular groups recently met to paint rain barrels for display and use outside popular buildings throughout their community. Embracing this concept of green infrastructure, the kids can redirect stormwater from contaminant-heavy roadways to opportunities for reuse.

Rain barrel 101

Rain barrels are among the simplest examples of green infrastructure to create, and as opposed to traditional downspout drainage, they have the potential to save huge amounts of water. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, when placed under a roof measuring 58m2 (600 ft.2), rain barrels of appropriate size could easily catch up to 341 L (90 gal) of stormwater during a .63-cm. (.25-inch) storm event.


Funding this project

The rain barrels, assembled by Michigan State University Extension (East Lansing) as made possible by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-sponsored grant, were decorated by Bay County students. The young conservationists also researched the threats posed by stormwater pollution to local waterways, and created educational signage and posters to accompany the barrels.

Affordable to create and requiring a very low amount of maintenance, the Bay County rain barrels will be attached directly to the downspouts of local gutter systems. A protective screen will cover their openings to keep out insects and debris.


Public education

These green works of art will be featured on public display at county fairs, state parks, libraries, and community centers through Sept. 2. Then, they will be installed permanently outside area schools. Once in full operation, collected water can be used to maintain green space in Bay County, to keep pollution out of the Great Lakes, and to slash household water consumption.