Put Rainwater to Use

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According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, during an average rainstorm more than 700 gallons of water run off the roof of a typical home. That’s enough water to take 17 baths or 58 showers!

Do you know what happens during and after a rainstorm? Chances are all that water is rushing off nearby buildings and pavement and back into the local waterways, bringing a whole lot of pollution with it. By capturing rainwater with strategies like rain barrels and water gardens, you can put it to use to water your plants or flush the toilets.

Get started

  • Learn more about your local watershed, where the school’s water comes from, and where it goes in storm sewers when it leaves the site.
  • Identify a level area near a downspout on the school or campus grounds to install a rain barrel. Be sure to get approval from a school administrator for the project. 
    • Find a large waterproof container that you can use to create your rain barrel. 
    • Install a downspout diverter that will allow the water to flow into the barrel from the downspout but divert out to the storm sewer if the barrel gets full.
    • You can have fun decorating & painting the barrel and then you're ready to install it at the school!
  • Measure the gallons of water saved this year. 
    • Estimate your impact by adding up the amount that will likely be saved by using water from the barrels instead of the hose or spigot. 
    • You can track your school's water usage data throughout the school year using Arc, the online building performance platform, to identify areas of inefficiencies.

Additional resources

  • Use the Environmental Protection Agency’s How’s My Waterway tool to find out about your watershed. 
  • Explore the Environmental Protection Agency  and National Environmental Education Foundation’s Watershed Sleuth Challenge and other online activities for students and families to explore water quality and identify ways to take action. 
  • See Chesapeake Bay Foundation for detailed step-by-step guides on creating and installing your own rain barrels. 
    •  Watch HGTV’s video on how to build a rain barrel.

Project spotlight

Indianola Informal K-8 in Columbus, Ohio

“Indianola Informal K-8's existing garden needed a spring revitalization! U.S. Green Building Council’s Ohio chapter and the teachers/parents in charge of the garden at the school planned an exciting workday. Along with bringing in new mulch and preparing for the spring, Rain Brothers installed a 500-gallon rain cistern for reuse. The goal of the rain barrel was to reduce the stormwater impact the building has on the fragile Scioto River ecosystem and serve to feed the garden throughout the year. In addition, Oakland Nursery generously donated large shade trees for the playground area! Future goals also include a rain garden and outdoor shade structure for class gatherings.

The garden's purpose is to create a living learning lab for the students of Indianola K-8. This will allow students to grow food, create habitat, and learn about the natural world surrounding them."