BELCHERTOWN — Extreme weather and intense rain events have become more common in recent years. In August 2023, many New England communities experienced severe flooding when more than 6 inches of rain fell over a six-hour period. In an effort to mitigate future storm impacts, Belchertown and Ware have partnered with The Great American Rain Barrel Company to offer rain barrels to residents at discounted prices, helping homeowners collect the water, instead of letting it go down the drain.

“The town is engaging in this program in partnership with the town of Ware as a way to enhance our community’s sustainability in the face of climate change by providing an alternate source of water for residential use,” said Sarah Fortune, Belchertown’s conservation administrator.

Rain barrels are a method of storing roof runoff and other stormwater for later use in gardens, washing cars and other non-potable uses. The barrels are generally placed at the end of a gutter downspout to collect water during storms. The barrels also limit erosion near structures from roof runoff. Collecting rainwater also has an impact on the community’s environmental sustainability.

“From the town’s perspective, the benefit of residents using rain barrels is that by preventing stormwater roof runoff from coming into contact with impervious surfaces, the rain barrels help reduce pollution and erosion, which will improve overall watershed health,” Fortune said. “Additionally, using rain barrels helps lower municipal water demands and helps lower energy costs at wastewater treatment plants.”

The Great American Rain Barrel Company, based in Massachusetts, repurposes plastic barrels that have been used to ship and store foodstuffs. Despite being food-grade plastic, the barrels are not intended to store drinking water. The company explains on its website that the barrels were originally used to store dry foodstuffs. However, while repurposing them into rain barrels, holes are drilled into them. The lack of a sealed container means the water may grow bacteria that is suitable for grey water uses, but not for drinking water.

The rain barrels are made of 3/16-inch polyethylene plastic and are resistant to ultraviolet light. The company’s website states that the barrels should be emptied and dried for winter storage to avoid damage from extreme cold or ice forming inside. The barrels ship with a hard top removable lid, a plastic threaded spigot, two 3/4-inch overflow valves and a choice between two ports to place your spigot. The included screen can be placed under the lid, preventing mosquitos from entering the barrel and breeding. Depending on a person’s needs, two or more barrels can be linked together to hold more rainwater.

In the past, Belchertown partnered with The Great American Rain Barrel Company and the town of Palmer.

“It was very successful,” Fortune said. “I think the last time I ran the program there were about 38 orders for rain barrels between the two towns.” A minimum order of 40 barrels is required to make the towns eligible for the company’s community program pricing. The rain barrels cost between $80 and $89 through the program. Some additional accessories are available, including a downspout water diverter for $30-$35 and decorative polished river stones for the top of the barrel at $24.

To order a rain barrel, visit greatamericanrainbarrel.com/community and select Ware and Massachusetts from the drop-down menus. The deadline to order is June 30 at midnight. Barrels can be picked up Saturday, July 13, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Ware Highway Department, 18 Mechanic St.

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