Students hope rain barrels get workout
By ELIZABETH GOLDEN
Agriculture students at Fort Hays State University rolled out the rain barrels in support of water conservation and water quality.
Jean Gleichner, associate professor of agriculture, spent Thursday with her home horticulture class building 400 rain barrels.
Coca-Cola Enterprises in Lenexa donated the empty plastic barrels.
"The idea was to be able to convert plastic barrels that normally would be thrown away or disposed of, and recycle them to be used as rain barrels," Gleichner said. "This way, people can collect water off of the roof, house, garage and use it to water plants."
FHSU students first began building rain barrels in 2009.
"We talked about wanting to do a service-learning project," said Stacie Minson, Kansas State University Research and Extension watershed specialist. "We wanted to see if we could engage the citizens and the community to look at water conservation. Because of the drought, everyone is wanting barrels."
Approximately 20 students assisted in building the barrels.
"I participated because it's for a good cause," said junior Kristin Neises.
"Especially with all the water restrictions, now people won't have to worry about watering plants."
The water is not drinkable but assists with watering plants, especially during summer months.
Gleichner said approximately 40 percent of water used in the summer goes toward watering plants.
"It really works well to help with water conservation, as well as meeting the needs of the plants," Gleichner said.
Rain barrels connect to the home's downspout and allow the rainwater coming off the roof to fill the barrel. A hose can be attached to the bottom of the barrel and used as a faucet to water the plants when necessary.
The water is used slowly, which discourages runoff of pollutants.
"When the water quickly washes off your property, it often times carries fertilizer, soil, anything that may have been put on the grass," Gleichner said. "Eventually, the water is returned to the groundwater, stream or lake. This causes pollution."
Each rain barrel can hold approximately 55 gallons of water.
"You can save a lot of money because you're not paying for city water or pumping water from your private well," she said.
The rain barrels cost community members $26 in order to offset the cost of shipping from Lenexa.