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2018 Honoring Mother Earth fairSAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. —Free water falls from the sky many days of the year, and most times, it runs down the storm drain and out into the river. But with an investment into a rain barrel, a homeowner can tap into that free-falling resource.

For those uncertain on how to build a rain barrel, the Sault Tribe Environmental Department is hosting a demonstration on Sept. 7 during the department’s annual Honoring Mother Earth Environmental Fair.

“Rain barrels have been an asset in every aspect of outdoor living for me,” said Kathie Brosemer, Environmental Program Manager for Sault Tribe. Brosemer herself has four rain barrels and is planning a fifth and sixth.

A typical rain barrel can hold 50 to 60 gallons of water—water that can be used for watering outdoor plants and gardens, washing tools, decks, windows, sidewalks or any other application that can handle rainwater.

“The plants love the rain barrel water,” Brosemer said. “It’s always the same temperature as their soil water, so it never shocks the roots. Better still, it’s right there on the deck—no carrying water in from the house, no dragging out the garden hose and having to put it away after. I fill my watering cans at the barrel, turn and water the plants.”

Even a small amount of rain can fill a rain barrel. According to statistics provided by the Great American Rain Barrel Company, 1/10 of an inch of rain falling on 1,000 square feet of catchment area can fill a 60-gallon barrel. Many homes have an average of 500 square of roof.

Michigan averages around nine inches of rain spring through fall, based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions that any rainwater collected flowing from residential roofs may pick pollutants such as bacteria from bird dropping or chemicals from roofing materials—an important consideration if the water will be used on edible plants. But even with this consideration, the collected water still has uses.

 “I have a pair of them on my little maple syrup cabin, too," Brosemer said. "I have those lids on loosely so that any overfilling simply pours out and doesn’t create standing water to breed mosquitoes. But it provides a water source for washing out syruping equipment, and for putting out fires before I leave camp. I can’t cook with it, and for a final rinse on equipment I’ll use boiled water for sanitation purposes. But it sure helps with the workload at camp to have a source of water for all the things you don’t need perfectly clean water for.”

Rain barrels not only save on water usage costs, but can also reduce sewage costs. These costs are often estimated based on the amount of incoming water a household uses.

Collected rain water is also healthier for plant and soil, according to the Green Building Alliance. This water does not contain fluoride compounds or minerals usually found in tap water, and these substances can have a detrimental effect on gardens.

Along with that, Brosemer said her rain barrels are simplifying her gardening.

“I’m planning on getting two more before the end of this season to catch the water from my garden shed,” she said. “I’ll run hose out to my vegetable garden once it’s tilled in spring and lay out soaker hose to water my vegetables. Then watering will be as simple as opening the tap.”

Rain barrels not only save on water usage costs, but can also reduce sewage costs. These costs are often estimated based on the amount of incoming water a household uses.

The Environmental Department’s Honoring Mother Earth Environmental Fair is scheduled for Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the department’s office at 206 Greenough St. in Sault Ste. Marie. For more information about the fair or about rain barrels, contact the department at 906‑632‑5575 or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo by Michael C. Guilmette Jr: Attendees at the 2018 Honoring Mother Earth fair take part in the rain barrel building demonstration.

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY