COLUMBIA — Summer Dwyer arrived at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services parking lot on her bicycle early and unprepared.
Dwyer has wanted to use rain barrels for a long time. She had learned about a city program offering discount rain barrels before the deadline but put it in the back of her mind.
After checking the city's website and learning that she could still buy a rain barrel even if she hadn't registered early, Dwyer decided to show up. She plans to use the water she collects in her rain barrel for her three gardens.
"I have a garden and chickens, so this seemed like the next logical step," said the self-described "urban farmer." She had to call a friend with a car to help her get the barrel home.
Dwyer is one of hundreds of area residents who purchased rain barrels through a joint effort between the city of Columbia and Rain Water Solutions, a North Carolina-based company. Area residents were able to buy rain barrels for $62, much less than the usual price of $119.
Conservation was the main thing Dwyer, of Columbia, had in mind when she decided to buy a barrel. "It seemed like the thing to do to conserve. It seems wasteful to use water from hose, when you can use water from nature."
A reading teacher for kindergarten through sixth-graders for the Pilot Grove C-4 School District, Dwyer and some of her colleagues got together to create an outdoor classroom. They applied for and received two grants totaling $750 for a garden. They've also applied for a grant that would allow them to build a shed and get another rain barrel to collect rainwater from its roof.
That would solve a major issue. The gardens are a long way away from the school building. As it stands, the children are filling buckets in the school's bathrooms and hauling them with wagons.
Aidan Haas, who bought two barrels Friday, said the decision was about convenience. Her family has a small garden where they grow tomatoes, pumpkins and other produce. They also grow sunflowers so they don't have to buy bird seed.
Haas said her husband dislikes running the hose and carrying buckets to and from a nearby spring is impractical. The rain barrel solved this problem.
For Tom Koenig of New Franklin, who bought three barrels, the choice was more about finances. Koenig had been looking to buy a 350-gallon tank. But the more he looked at companies, the more the price bothered him. One website Koenig looked at wanted $259 plus shipping and handling for a tank.
Koenig learned about the city program when someone sent him a link to the city's website. It looked like a deal, he said. Koenig plans to use the collected water to use on his garden and fruit trees.
Lynn Ruck, co-owner of Rain Water Solutions, the company that manufactures the Ivy model rain barrel, said 418 barrels were ordered before the pickup day. The company brought some extras, though, to accommodate those who missed the deadline.
Mike Heimos, stormwater educator for the city, said the barrels are an educational tool that demonstrates the need to control runoff.
"We all need to think about what we are doing," Heimos said. "Not just this subdivision or that subdivision, but all of us."
"Now is the time, during the dog days when rain is more sparse in July, August and September, to catch what rain does come to use on your garden."
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.