Catching rain without disdain
Some Chicago residents discover the beauty of rain barrels -- though it hasn't caught on in a big way yet.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - 21:10
INDEPENDENT: Rain barrel popularity hasn't caught on in Chicago-area neighborhoods, but one family embraces its usefulness. (Photo: Em-J Staples)
The great American backyard has become a common standard in suburban neighborhoods across Chicago-land. Everything from perfectly mowed, edged and treated grass, vibrantly decorated flower beds and simple patio furniture define the great American backyard. However, one family chose an alternative, less attractive way to provide water throughout their lawn.
“We have four metal rain barrels we built ourselves on our yard,” said Krishnan Tatai.
He and his family first discovered the idea behind rain barrels after reading an article in a San Jose newspaper.
“It was just talking about how to store rain water for future use, and out of curiosity we wanted to try it. After that, we started collecting rain water,” he said.
Five years and thousands of gallons of water later, the family is still the only ones with metal “art” in their front yard.
“A lot of the neighbors are curious what they are, and what purpose they’re serving,” said Tatai.
Little do the neighbors know that with every inch of rain received, the barrels collect 200-250 gallons of water. Having four barrels, two in the front and two in the back, the Tatai family saves a lot.
“Our water bill has gone down over 54 percent in the last two years,” he said.
In addition to saving money, Tatai has seen the difference in his sump pump.
“The rain barrels prevent them from working so hard, especially after a big storm,” he said.
Recently St. Charles, Ill., received six inches of rain in one night. The hard rains caused a lot of problems for many homeowners in the neighborhood, but Tatai embraced the heavy downpour.
“We use it to water all of our flowering plants, and our lawn,” he said.
The collected water isn’t the family’s only water source. Instead it’s used in conjunction with tap water.
“When it’s been really dry we can’t use the rain barrels, we must use the tap water. But, it’s an environmentally friendly alternative,” he said.
I discovered the Tatai’s rain barrels after walking past their house one evening. I noticed the two huge metal barrels in the front and I was pleasantly surprised. Homeowners in our neighborhood worry about the look of the lawn rather than the importance of keeping it eco-savvy.
The city of St. Charles currently sells barrels for $60-$80 each, but I was intrigued to hear that Tatai built his barrels on his own.
“We saw them on Craigslist, and on the DIY Network, but I thought we could just get the materials and make them ourselves,” he said.
He went to the local hardware store and built each one for $25.
“It’s nice to know that I did it myself. I built it and I’m conserving water,” he said.
Also on MNN: How to start a home rain barrel project
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