Rain barrels, commonplace many years ago, are making a strong comeback. The barrels are designed to store rooftop stormwater runoff for later use. This practical, water-conserving reservoir can be a container of any size and material, but most are made from 55-gallon plastic drums.

The City of Lincoln Watershed Management Division promotes rain barrel usage to homeowners to reduce stormwater runoff, the most common source of surface water pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pollutants in stormwater runoff are responsible for about 70 percent of all water pollution in lakes, rivers and creeks. Since most property is privately owned, homeowners should do their part to reduce this type of pollution by properly disposing of waste, reducing fertilizer and pesticide use, picking up after pets and managing rainwater.

What is an easy way to reduce stormwater runoff and conserve water? Install a rain barrel! Many people primarily think of rain barrels to save water for plant irrigation, but rainwater can be used for other purposes such as washing clothes and hair.

Jumping on the rain barrel bandwagon can be as cheap or creative as you like. From building your own to purchasing one adorned with artistic design, your options are plentiful.

Building a barrel can cost as little as $50 and take under an hour to assemble. Most do-it-yourselfers agree that starting with a food-grade recycled plastic drum is the easiest solution. These can be obtained by calling Keep Nebraska Beautiful at 486-4622.

Need some help building a rain barrel? The City of Lincoln offers a course through Southeast Community College to build your own rain barrel, with all supplies provided. This class is available several times during the spring and summer for $49. To register, please contact Southeast Community College at 437-2712.

If you don't have time to build a rain barrel or take a class, a variety of hardware and garden stores or recycled product retailers sell affordable and fully assembled barrels. A complete list and a do-it-yourself guide are available at lincoln.ne.gov, keyword: rain barrel. In addition, video demonstrations are a click away on YouTube.

An assembled rain barrel can be transformed into a unique landscape feature with a variety of camouflaging options. Consider circling a barrel with a chicken wire fence and starting a vine plant, wrapping a barrel in wooden stakes and fixing with copper wire, or painting one artistically.

When thinking about spring gardening, consider adding something to your plan, both old and new - a rain barrel. Whether you do it yourself, purchase it from a retailer or bid on one at an auction, all routes lead to the same effort of reducing stormwater runoff, conserving water and saving money.

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