The Watershed: H2O

Welcome to!

Welcome to!

Welcome to my home in the Watershed. Here I'll show you how to be an H2O Hero just like me! Just do some exploring and I'll share 11 helpful tips with you. Then use the links or tabs below for even more information.

Clean up after your pets

Did you know that 15 to 20 percent of the bacteria in our waterways come from pet waste? Now that really stinks! Cleaning up after your pet is the simplest thing you can do to keep harmful bacteria from being washed into our storm drains, and eventually into our waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Make a Rain Barrel

A rain barrel collects rainwater that can be used later to water landscaping around your home. This can save most homeowners over 1,000 gallons of water a year! Collecting and using rainwater helps protect the environment and saves money and energy by reducing the demand for treated tap water. Learn how to make a rain barrel for your home in our H2O Quality 101 section below.

Minimize your use of fertilizers and pesticides

Keep fertilizers and pesticides off driveways, sidewalks, and roads where they would run off into storm drains. Don't apply them near waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Only Rain Down The Drain

Storm drains connect your neighborhood directly to the nearest stream or body of water. They're different from sanitary sewers, which connect to a treatment facility. it's never a good idea to dump anything into a storm drain because it doesn't get treated and will pollute our waterways. To learn more about storm drains, check out our H2O Quality 101 section.

Recycle Your Oil

When changing your car's oil, please make sure to recycle the old oil. Be sure to clean up any spills by absorbing with kitty litter or sand, then dispose of properly. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Keep the Pavement Clear of Grass Clippings

Mulching grass clippings or leaving them on your lawn provides a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Mowing high helps control weed growth. Sweep up grass clippings from roadways and driveways, and DO NOT dump grass clippings or other plant materials into streets, catch basins, or streams — the nutrients will leach from them and enter nearby waterways, spurring unwanted algae growth. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Mark Storm Drains

Storm drain marking can help deter storm drain dumping and reduce non-point source pollution by informing residents that anything that goes down a storm drain goes directly into a waterbody without being treated. To be an H2O Hero and volunteer to coordinate a storm drain marking event, read our "Get Involved" section.

Maintain a Buffer Strip Along Waterways

Undisturbed (unmowed) vegetation along streams and drainage pathways will capture nutrients that wash off your lawn before they are discharged to the waterway. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Dispose of Hazardous Chemicals Properly

If your garage is anything like Larry's, it probably has its share of half-used cans of paint, cleaners and chemicals lying around. Some people dump them down the storm drain - or throw them in the trash - just to get rid of them. Learn the right way to dispose of these materials so they don't end up getting into our groundwater and our nearby lakes and streams. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Visit the Local Car Wash

Sure, Larry likes to keep his wheels looking hot. But he knows that washing his car at the local car wash - instead of in his driveway - is the best way to keep harmful detergents from getting into our local waterways. For more information, read our "At Home" section.

Create a Rain Garden

A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff from roofs and driveways. This reduces stormwater runoff by allowing rain to soak into the ground and replenish groundwater. By reducing runoff, rain gardens help protect water quality and reduce erosion and flooding. To install a rain garden in your yard, visit our "Get Involved" section.

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H2O Quality 101
About Us
Rochester Embayment
Your Watershed
Downspout Disconnect
Rain Gardens
Rain Barrels
Porous Pavers
Green Projects

Rain Barrels

What is a Rain Barrel?

Rain barrels are connected directly to a downspout on your house and collect the rainwater running off the roof, storing this runoff for later use in your garden or landscaping. A spigot near the bottom of the rain barrel allows for connection to a garden hose. Rain barrels and cisterns have been around for centuries and are becoming increasingly popular as an easy, low cost method of reducing stormwater runoff and protecting water quality. A rain barrel may include an overflow to direct the water to an area which can safely receive the runoff. Another rain barrel design includes a diverter which keeps overflows within the downspout. Downspouts associated with diverter style rain barrels should still be disconnected from the storm sewer system, if applicable and possible, to maximize the water quality benefits within your yard. Utilizing a rain barrel and directing the overflow to a rain garden creates an ideal residential stormwater management system.

How do rain barrels help water quality?

Rain barrels reduce stormwater runoff to storm drains by collecting and storing rainwater from your home's rooftop. During drier weather conditions this stored water can be used to water lawn or decorative garden areas, and infiltrate into the ground. Using rain barrels keeps sediments and other pollutants out of the storm sewer and allows them to be treated by the vegetation and microbes within the soil. A ½ inch rainfall on a typical 1,000 sq.ft home's roof produces about 300 gallons of water, or almost four bathtubs full. They also reduce the use of portable water and lower your water bill.

How can I get a low-cost rain barrel for my home?

Attend a rain barrel workshop. Rain barrel workshops are typically held in the spring and early summer throughout Monroe County, NY through the Rochester Museum & Science Center, local libraries, and municipal parks and recreation departments. During these one hour workshops, attendees will learn about rain barrels, their benefits and things they can do around their homes to help local water quality. They will make and take home their own 55 gallon rain barrel. Click here for Current Workshops.

In Monroe County, barrels are donated from the Genesee Brewery and are repurposed to be used as rain barrels. The program is a partnership between the Water Education Collaborative, the Genesee Brewery, the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Monroe County, and local towns and villages.

Purchase a rain barrel.

If a workshop is not currently being offered you can also call the Rochester Museum & Science Center at 585-697-1942 to set up an appointment to get one.

Interested in having a group or your local municipality host a rain barrel workshop? Contact us!

Interested in building your own rain barrel?

Interested in building your own rain barrel? Our local H2O Hero program utilizes two different designs for rain barrels. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages.

Style 1: Instructions on how to build an open-top container rain barrel with lid

Style 2: Our current rain barrel workshops utilize a barrel diverter kit available online from EarthMinded (download instructions here). As previously mentioned, downspouts associated with this style rain barrel should also be disconnected to achieve maximum water quality benefit.

Ideas for decorating your rain barrel

Most of the rain barrels provided through our program are “rain barrel blue” in color. Some people like to spray paint the barrels to better match their homes, and some like to use their artistic talents to create a design or picture.

Prior to painting your rain barrel it is recommended that you roughen up the surface with some sand paper which will allow the paint to stick better. Make sure you thoroughly clean and dry the outside of the barrel prior to painting. Use only paint that states on the label that it can be used for plastics. Krylon spray paint has been found to work well for this painting.

How much water does my home produce when it rains?

To estimate the amount of rainfall coming off your roof, enter the information below. Roof measurements are estimated using the outside dimensions of your house.
Roof Area = Sq. Feet Rainfall = Inches Volume of Rainwater = Gallons

FAQ’s for rain barrels

Q: Did these barrels previously contain toxic or hazardous chemicals?

A: No, barrels used in our program come from the Genesee Brewery and are food grade. They originally contained flavorings used in the brewing process.

Q: Can I use my rain barrel water for watering edible plants?

A: Because there may be the possibility of the potential for pollutants to leach from roofing materials, it is recommended that the rain barrel water not be used to water plants for human consumption.

Q: Can I raise my rain barrel off the ground for ease of filling containers or connecting hoses?

A: Many people place their rain barrels on concrete blocks. However, ensure that the barrel’s placement is stable as a barrel full of water weighs over 400 pounds.

Q: How do I maintain my rain barrel?

A: Over time, debris from the roof and gutters may find its way into the rain barrel. Flushing this debris out of the barrel once a year is normally adequate. During the winter months rain barrels should be drained and disconnected from the gutter downspout to prevent damage from ice formation. For this time the original downspout configuration should be re-established. CAUTION: Our current rain barrel design requires removal of the diverter from the downspout for winter. Care must be taken to prevent the diverter (and fingers!) from being cut by the sharp edges of the hole drilled into the downspout.

Q: Do I have to worry about mosquitoes in my rain barrel?

A: No. Our current rain barrel design includes sealed lids and openings that prevent mosquitoes from getting into them. If your rain barrel does have any openings make sure they are covered with a mesh material to prevent mosquitoes from entering.

Q: Is it legal to collect rainwater in New York State?

A: Yes, it is completely legal to use a rain barrel in New York State. However, in some water-restricted states rainwater collection is not allowed or is regulated.

Upcoming H20 Hero Events and Workshops

For pictures and information about local H2O Heroes and Projects, visit Larry's Facebook Page!