New York City’s Department of Environment Protection (DEP) is giving away 55-gallon rain barrels to homeowners – 1,000 barrels this year. The program began in spring 2008 when the DEP distributed 250 barrels to homeowners in Queens. In 2009, 750 barrels were distributed to homeowners. The program was initiated by the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan. On July 20, 2005 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a City Council bill which required the DEP to create a protection plan for the Jamaica Bay watershed.
The rain barrels capture storm water from a home’s roof, water which can be used to water the lawn or garden. “These rain barrels will capture thousands of gallons of water that would have otherwise flowed into the streets, leading to flooding and increasing the likelihood and intensity of combined sewer overflow,” said Cas Holloway, the city’s environmental protection commissioner.
Rain barrels, according to New York City’s government website, “can reduce pressure on the city’s sewer system during storm events.” Rain barrels also conserve water which saves homeowners money. The website notes that up to 40 percent of the city’s water use is from homeowners watering lawns or gardens.
“Improved stormwater management is an important component of DEP’s efforts that use a variety of innovative, sustainable techniques to help mitigate the City’s stormwater runoff going into the sewer system,” said DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd. “This program is also an important part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative to build a greener, more livable city and help our customers to conserve our precious resources.”
Other cities giving away rain barrels
New York City is not the only city giving away free rain barrels. Utica, a city less than 200 miles from New York City, is giving away 400 rain barrels thanks to a $718,000 grant from the state of New York’s Environmental Facilities Corporation. Back in 2009, another city in the state of New York, Buffalo, gave away 161 rain barrels.
Cities in the state of New York are not the only ones to give away free rain barrels. Cities across the country have similar programs, including Philadelphia, Columbia, Missouri and San Marcos, California.