Stratford rain barrel study shows 'modest but critical' results

Rain barrels can help divert water from storm systems and reduce flooding, according to a joint study by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and the Town of Stratford released Wednesday.

Findings from 3-year study by Town of Stratford, Insurance Bureau of Canada released Wednesday

The Callaghan family of Stratford use water from their rain barrel for plants and vegetables. (Town of Stratford)

Rain barrels can help divert water from storm systems and reduce flooding, according to a joint study by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and the Town of Stratford released Wednesday.

During the three-year Stratford Rain Barrel Study, close to 1,000 barrels were distributed to families living in detached homes.

The barrels were installed under roof downspouts to capture water during storms and relieve pressure on the stormwater system.

Nearly 1,000 rain barrels were given out to Stratford residents for the study. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

As extreme weather events increase in severity and frequency, stormwater and waste water systems in Straftford are becoming overburdened, according to the IBC.

We love having the rain barrel. It was easy to set up, easy to install. We use it to water our flowerbeds and our tomato and cucumber plants.- Patricia Callaghan, Stratford resident

In some cases, that has resulted in overflows and flooding in homes.

The IBC says insurance claims for water damage have soared in recent years and even small reductions in flow to the waste water system can make a difference to prevent storm water systems from overflowing.

The study, which calls the results "modest, but critical," says the barrels have the capacity to reduce the flow rate to the treatment plant by as much as 4.5 per cent. Town officials say that amount is significant.

"It showed that about 180,000 litres of water can be diverted from the system during peak rain periods, so especially when you get those rainfall amounts of 40 millimetres an hour. That's a lot of rain within a short period of time," said Amanda Dean, IBC Atlantic vice-president.

Cornwall next for barrels

Patricia Callaghan and her family signed up for the program when it launched in 2012.

Amanda Dean, Insurance Bureau of Canada vice-president Atlantic, says the study showed about 180,000 litres of water can be diverted during a major rainfall. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

"We love having the rain barrel. It was easy to set up, easy to install. We use it to water our flowerbeds and our tomato and cucumber plants," says Callaghan.

"A rain barrel is something I'm very familiar with. My parents used to use one whenever I was a child and they still use one. So it's something we looked forward to having."

The town still has 20 barrels to give out.

The IBC will continue to monitor what's happening in Stratford, Dean said.

"It's community that's very innovative, that really embraces new and old technology to solve the things that we're facing when we're seeing the changing weather patterns around us. We're not going to walk away."

Meanwhile, the IBC is set to launch a similar rain barrel initiative Thursday at Westwood Primary School. Five-hundred free barrels will be available to town residents and can be picked up at the Terry Fox Sports Complex on Saturday.

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