April showers are upon us, and, according to Palmyra Green Team member Emma Melvin, you could be wasting a lot of that perfectly good rain water.
On Thursday, April 25, the Palmyra Green Team hosted a rain barrel workshop at the Palmyra Community Center where residents got an education on the benefits of collecting rain water and had a chance to construct rain barrels of their own.
“Rain barrels are like our gateway drug for people to start doing other stormwater management on their property,” said Melvin.
A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores the water that flows from your home’s rooftop gutter downspout that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams.
The Green Team is working toward a goal of securing bronze level certification through Sustainable Jersey. The certification is a statewide program for municipalities throughout New Jersey that supports local efforts to cut down on waste and greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental equity.
The rain barrel workshop is one of several initiatives the Green Team has headed that count toward Palmyra’s certification. Such a certification not only makes a town look good, but can also lead to grant opportunities it may not otherwise have access to.
According to sustainablejersey.com, since 2009 the Sustainable Jersey Grants Program has funded over $2.5 million worth of sustainable projects in municipalities throughout the state.
The workshop was free to interested residents and filled up quickly. According to Green Team lead Mindie Weiner, all of the materials needed to construct the rain barrels were funded through a $2,000 sustainability grant awarded to Palmyra through Sustainable New Jersey in May 2018.
“This class serves a lot of purposes. We are going to get points toward our certification and we are going to be able to utilize the $2,000 grant that we got last year, which is important because it’s a time frame,” said Weiner. “Our thinking about doing this was it’s perfect timing because the borough has to do certain efforts, that they also get points for, with the state for stormwater management and this is one of those things.”
Melvin began the night with a presentation on the importance of stormwater management and how rain barrels can contribute.
“It’s a rainwater harvesting practice, and we usually lump it with a larger group of practices called ‘green stormwater infrastructure’ that tries to mimic how nature collects water,” said Melvin.
According to Melvin, when nature manages waterflow, it will detain it and hold it in place before infiltrating it into the ground where it is filtered and will recharge the groundwater. Water barrels mimic that first step, retaining water flow, so people can reuse it.
“We usually encourage people to reuse it on porous spaces like their lawn and garden. People do use it for their cars or for cleaning off their sidewalks but we encourage people to get it back in the ground because it collects (water) when it’s raining, so this way, when it’s dry, you can then get it to go back into the ground and recharge it,” said Melvin.
Rain barrels help keep rivers and lakes clean, and by extension, our drinking water, says Melvin. Rainwater picks up a lot of things you may not think of on its way to a storm drain. Things like fertilizer, pesticides, waste from our cars and just about anything in our streets are all picked up as water flows to the nearest storm drains, which then empty into local bodies of water.
“There’s no treatment of that water so everything gets put back into our streams. So if you are a fish or a bug you just consume that, and technically, we then consume it too because we get our drinking water from the Delaware,” said Melvin. “It is processed, and a lot goes into that processing, but we pay for that processing.”
For more information on the Palmyra Green Team, check out its page on the borough website, boroughofpalmyra.com/palmyra-green-team.