Reduced price rain barrels available through June 23

Monday, June 10, 2013 | 7:29 p.m. CDT; updated 8:36 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 11, 2013

*The date for people to pick up rain barrels through this program has been corrected in this story.

COLUMBIA — Storm water educator Mike Heimos is enthusiastic about rain barrels.

"Our goal is to have everyone in the county to eventually own one," he said.

These barrels look like residential waste bins, but their sole purpose is to collect rain and cut down on the run-off entering local streams. The water collected could then be recycled and used for watering a yard or a garden.

The city of Columbia is currently offering a program that allows both residents and nonresidents to purchase rain barrels at a discounted rate. Through June 23, 50-gallon barrels from Rain Water Solutions are available for purchase for $62, slightly more than half the normal retail price of $119.

Heimos chose Rain Water Solutions based on references, quality of product and experience, as well as because the reduced-price barrel can be built in as little as 15 minutes.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, 204 orders had been placed.

Pickup will take place from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. on June 28* at the Boone County Health Department, 1005 W. Worley St.

The program is expected to continue in future years, Heimos said.

"This isn't a one-time shot. This is something we'll do every year." 

For more information, including an installation video, go to

Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Steven Sapp June 11, 2013 | 5:42 a.m.

For folks that wish to order a rain barrel(s), visit the City of Columbia website at In the search box on the top right of the page, type "rain barrel" to be taken to the information and ordering page.

Steven Sapp, Public Information Specialist
Columbia Public Works Department

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 11, 2013 | 7:38 a.m.

Or just buy a plastic trash can and a couple of kiddie pools. 250 gallons total for about $45.

It's nice to not have to water your plants with city water, but rain barrels make a negligible difference in runoff. 50 gallons is 0.08" of rain on a 1000 square foot roof.


(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 11, 2013 | 9:22 a.m.

"...and cut down on the run-off entering local streams."

I have no problems with rain barrels per se, but I have a real problem with the way they are being "sold" to the public.

As MarkF states (and SteveSapp knows), rain barrels have negligible effects upon runoff. Anyone with a calculator and arithmetic ability can calculate how many gallons of rain falls upon Columbia in a...say...2" rain, and then compare that value to a 50 gallon rain barrel times however many barrels can be in Columbia. Telling the public it is "REALLY DOING SOMETHING" about runoff by using a rain barrel or rain garden is either a bald-faced lie or utter naivety. I don't know which.

Rain barrels are fine, as are rain gardens. They're fun. They are even a good educational tool to help the public understand the downside of runoff and the upside of water conservation. I have no problems being educated, but I will resent any hidden agenda in that education; don't tell me I'm "REALLY HELPING THE ENVIRONMENT!" with my ineffective rain barrel actions when what you really want is to manipulate me socially. INO, don't pee on my boot and tell me it's raining.

It's also difficult for me to take environmentally-conscious folks seriously when it comes to freshwater conservation when those same folks refuse to collect it in any massive amounts, instead allowing it to flow all the way to the Gulf.

You wanna reduce runoff?

Make a lake.

(Report Comment)
Steven Sapp June 11, 2013 | 1:09 p.m.

Mark and Michael,

Good comments - no hidden agenda here.

You are both correct, a single rain barrel does not make a huge difference in slowing runoff into creeks and streams. In the interview, Mikes point was that using a rain barrel can raise awareness of how water running off of impervious surfaces, such as roofs, can add up. By being able to measure and see that, it's a tool we use to educate. Hard to measure runoff from driveways and patio's but rain barrels make it easier. Plus there is the added benefit of having that water for watering of plants and such.

We don't want to be disparaging to the young writer, but much of what you point out was stated in the 3 interviews we conducted yesterday. As you know, stories are edited to fit in the space allowed. And the writers on staff are learning the craft. We'll use this a learning moment too and make sure we explain and repeat key points.

On the note of sales, we serve a diverse base. We receive numerous calls from our customers asking where they can purchase a barrel, the diverter kit, and spigot. We have that information on our website as well as instructions on how to make those pieces fit together. However, the simple fact is, some of our customers want a simple, inexpensive turnkey solution - and this provides that.

Good discussion and thanks for your comments and for your efforts to reduce stormwater runoff.


Steven Sapp, Public Information Specialist
Columbia Public Works

P.S. If you've never met Mike Heimos, our stormwater educator, you should. He's passionate and knowledgeable about stormwater and he's a fun guy too.

(Report Comment)
Steven Sapp June 11, 2013 | 1:37 p.m.

Oh my, my words got a little mixed up.

"Hard to measure runoff from driveways and patio's but rain barrels make it easier." Should read, It's hard to measure run off from driveways and patio's but rain barrels make it easy to measure run off from our roofs. This measurement can be applied to other similar sized impervious surfaces.

Thanks -

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 11, 2013 | 3:58 p.m.

"These barrels look like residential waste bins, but their sole purpose is to collect rain and cut down on the run-off entering local streams."

Steve: Time and time again the ONLY verbiage about rain barrels and rain gardens from city officials has been with the stated goal of cutting down on the run-off entering local streams. This has been especially true of rain garden (500 gallons) discussions. It is only within the last week-or-so that verbiage on the "education of the populace" has been printed. I object to the past intellectual dishonesty. If you want to start a program to educate folks about runoff, then do so if the populace wants it and wants to pay for it. But don't spend years telling us we can make a difference when the math says otherwise. Folks with rain barrels/gardens who still insist, despite the math, they are making a difference should have taken their full barrels to the Hinkson a couple of weeks ago and compared volumes.

This has been going on for years and the message, in the absence of ANY other information (like math), has been, "You, too, CAN make a difference!"

Of course, the words "cut down" are technically accurate in that run-off IS cut down by 50 gallons/barrel, but that's like saying you can empty the Atlantic into the Pacific with a coast-to-coast bucket brigade!

And what if the rain barrel/garden isn't empty before the next rain event? Well, the runoff just got larger.

Fact is, rain barrels/gardens are small potatoes. It's a classic example of spending 95% of the time on 5% of the problem. I see little value, either in reduction of run-off or in education of the populace.

Finally, I am not against rain barrels/gardens. They DO serve a purpose with respect to fresh garden water plus, for gardens, beauty. I simply object when the case for them cannot be made for their garden uses and beauty, so officials resort to an emotional appeal that is pure poppycock and is based upon the assumption that the entire populace cannot do math.

I can.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 11, 2013 | 4:49 p.m.

Columbia encompasses ca. 63 square miles. That is equivalent to a square 7.94 miles on a side, or 41,923 feet. Square that and you get Columbia at 1,757,554,698 square feet.

A 2 inch rain is equivalent to 0.1667 feet of rain.

So, now that we have everything in square feet, we can calculate how many cubic feet of rain are deposited onto Columbia in that single 2" rain: 1,757,554,698 X 0.1667 = 292,931,641 cubic feet.

There are 7.48 gallons in a cubic foot, so that 2" rain deposited 2,191,128,679 gallons onto our fair city.

That's a little over 2 billion gallons in ONE rain event.

Columbia's population is ca. 110,000 people. If EVERY person had one 50 gallon rain barrel, then we would be sequestering 5,500,000 gallons from that 2" rain (if all of them were empty).

So, 5,500,000 divided by 2,191,128,679 times 100 = 0.25% of the rain event! You can "times" that by 4 if every citizen has 4 rain barrels.

What does this all mean?

It means: (1) We are letting a maximum 2 BILLION gallons of water escape (I agree some seeps into the ground, but that value is 100+ days of Columbia's water use!!!!!!! What the hell are we doing????), and (2) under the best of circumstances, you can accomplish as much good using those rain barrels to empty the Atlantic into the Pacific with a coast-to-coast bucket brigade.

As for "education" what end? What's the end game? Why the hell are we spending money (time, energy, reduced-priced barrels, newsprint) on something a max...will hold less than 1% of a SINGLE 2" RAIN EVENT!!!!!!!! AND, letting all that water go back to the Gulf of Mexico? I reiterate....what the hell are we doing??????

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders June 11, 2013 | 4:50 p.m.

But Michael, most of the time, emotional appeal is ALL they have.

Remember, these people have to justify spending over a million dollars a day of other people's money. If they had to rely solely upon reason, they'd wind up far short of their goal.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle June 11, 2013 | 5:37 p.m.

We are not talking about "spending over a million dollars a day of other people's money" here. Emotional appeal?!? You should *listen* to yourself sometime, instead of just *hear* yourself. Hypocrite. I wish I could use stronger / coarser / more accurate language here.

Love the pedantic dissertation on rainfall calculations, BTW, very well done, all in an effort to point out rain barrels don't make a significant impact on storm runoff. (Which was already discussed and essentially agreed upon already.) But guess what? Even if the impact is small, it still exists.

This entire discussion thread is a study of the difference between people who are genuinely working to improve something, and people who just want to criticize and complain.

Conservatives against conservation... It seems to be the theme. Irony, defined.

Mike Heimos really is a wonderful and incredible person, BTW. The City of Columbia is doing the right thing with this program. Keep it up!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 11, 2013 | 5:48 p.m.

"Facts have a cruel way of substituting themselves for fancies." - William C. Redfield, United States Secretary of Commerce (1915)

"An idealist believes the short run doesn't count. A cynic believes the long run doesn't matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run." - Sidney J. Harris (from one of his his columns in the Chicago Sun-Times)

Seems like having more realists could actually prove useful, and it begs an interesting question: should a goal of higher education be to turn out idealists, cynics, or realists?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 11, 2013 | 6:03 p.m.

Derrick: The article specifically says, "but their sole purpose is to collect rain and cut down on the run-off entering local streams."

So, no....the issue is apparently NOT settled.

As for "Even if the impact is small, it still exists," I repeat that this effort is an exercise in spending 95% of the time working on 5% of the problem. I'm not an advocate of that's wasteful and unproductive even if it makes one feel good.

As for "criticize and complain", build a lake. You're worried about the future of freshwater availability...right? Then why the hell do you not support a way to capture some of it...more than 50 gallons at a time.

I'm sure Mike Heimos "really is a wonderful and incredible person." But, since when does that have any bearing on right or wrong or wasteful efforts? "The City of Columbia is doing the right thing with this program" only if you support paltry outcomes that make you feel good.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 11, 2013 | 6:14 p.m.


As for "Conservatives against conservation".

After all the time spent reading one another's stuff, you throw THAT at me? Have your forgotten that I plant trees? Lots of trees? That I'm working to control stream and soil erosion on my farm? That I burn my forest floors to open them up, increasing diversity of plants and associated wildlife? That I've converted 20 acres of fescue back to pre-1492 native savannas? That I have 202 more acres to go? That I plant food plots for deer, turkeys, and anything else that wishes to eat it? That I edge-feather for quail? That I do forest stand improvement, making sure that I leave at least 2 snags/acre for woodpeckers and anything else than can find a worm? That I've advocated Columbia has ruined it's forests by allowing asian honeysuckle to choke the forest floor...and you AIN'T getting them back?

"Conservatives against conservation", indeed. Maybe you should modify your own activities in your "liberals for conservation" approach....or at least quit forgetting what others have told you they are doing.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 11, 2013 | 6:38 p.m.

Even further, I'm betting you have NO notion whatsoever what Richard, Ellis, and Mark...conservatives all...are doing for conservation.

Yet, you post "Conservatives against conservation... It seems to be the theme. Irony, defined."

Seems to me you're forgetful AND not informed.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 11, 2013 | 6:48 p.m.

Rapid storm water runoff and the problems it can cause is a problem. I've seen this greatly reduced in at least one city through building "lakes." Actually, they aren't lakes in the generally accepted sense of the word: they are properly called "retention basins." Most of the time they are dry.

A portion of the outtake from the municipal storm water drain system is diverted into relatively shallow basins, rather than all the runoff flowing out of the storm drains at once (causing flooding, stream erosion, contamination problems, etc.). A few days after a "gully washer" the basins are allowed to drain out, through the existing storm water system.

That's a "barrel" situation that REALLY has an impact!

I think this is half a dozen times I've posted on this subject during the past five years. IT AIN'T ROCKET SCIENCE!

The PROBLEM in applying this to Columbia or a number of other cities is this: where are there locations to place retention basins that don't already have something (structures, streets, parks, etc.) on them?

Obviously (well, to some of us) projects of this type should be planned as an integral part of overall city development, not added onto it.

BTW, and I've said this before too, should you build basins you must surround each one with a cyclone fence with a barbed wire topping, so nobody ends up drowning in one of them when its filling or filled. (How's that for a "realistic" suggestion?)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 11, 2013 | 8:19 p.m.

Ellis: 2 billion gallons for a puny 2" rain in Columbia. That's enuf to fill one of our million gallon water towers.....2000 times. It's also a little over 6000 acre feet if I am calculating correctly.

Each time.

The Hinkson would be a great place for many (very large) retention basins*.

Can we do even 1/3rd of that? 2000 acre feet?

No. Far better to feel good about 50 gallon rain barrels.

*but we put a recreational trail there and Derrick rides it and takes pics of snappers, bass, and mainly invasive asian honeysuckle. So, no go.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 12, 2013 | 3:14 a.m.


Don't forget the main purpose of retention basins is to control the flow rate of water into some watershed(s): creeks, (eventually) a river, or conceivably a downstream permanent lake. Permanent water retention is NOT a goal! As I've already indicated, except during periods of continuous storms and/or potential flash flooding, the basins are dry.

Please re-read my prior post; isn't the word "temporary" shown in capital letters?

While we're on the subject of nature trails, the MKT is a rails [railroad] to trails conversion, whereas your Bear Creek Trail, which also parallels a stream and is about the same length as the city portion of the MKT, was never any part of a railroad. No engineer I know would even discuss building a conventional rail line up the grade at the west end of BCT, where the trail goes into Cosmo Park.

Those individual rain collecting devices: if the water collected in them during warm weather isn't emptied on a regular basis they can become a breeding gound for mosquitoes! Just thought I'd mention that as a public service; I no longer reside in Columbia, so more mosquitoes there is no problem for me. :)

Yellow fever is spread by a specific species of mosquito*, which may not be found around Columbia at present, but in the first half of the 19th Century yellow fever was a serious health problem in Missouri. You might also recall that building the Panama Canal involved mosquitoes: rain barrels (typical around individual homes in Panama at that time) were one mosquito breeding ground.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. [Sigh!] It's only the size and cost of the messes that increase.

*- Allow me to also introduce dengue fever, a tropical disease spread by a variey of mosquito. With global warming, the mosquito could spread northward. Dengue fever is more commonly known as "break bone fever." It doesn't actually break bones, it just FEELS as if you bones have been broken! In areas where both yellow fever and dengue fever both occur, yellow fever is more typical in rural areas whereas dengue fever tends to occur in CITIES.

(Report Comment)
Jordan Newland June 12, 2013 | 9:58 a.m.

I am Jordan Newland and would like to thank you all for the comments. I'd like to address a couple of comments on here.
First, the Ivy model comes with a child-proof lid.

Second, this model also comes with a mosquito proof screen.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.