Old-fashioned rain barrels help solve problems in Stratford

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on September 16, 2015

Patricia Callaghan of Stratford says installing a rain barrel outside their Celtic Lane house was a no-brainer.

Patricia and her family jumped at the chance to get one when the Town of Stratford entered into a partnership three years ago with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).


IBC donated 1,000 rain barrels to the town, which in turn gave them away to interested residents in an ongoing effort to improve sustainability.

“When I saw the Town of Stratford was offering the rain barrels we knew we wanted one,’’ Callaghan said. “It was something my parents had when I was a child, to be honest. My dad had a big rain barrel to water his garden so it was something we were very familiar with and something we knew we wanted to have.’’

Patricia and her husband, Shawn, use it to water the flowers and the garden while she said their three children, ages 12, 10 and 8, are getting a lesson in water conservation.

IBC used the initiative to study rain barrel usage in the town. The results were released on Wednesday at town hall.

The barrels were given to families living in detached homes. They were installed under roof downspouts to capture water during rainfalls and relieve pressure on the town’s storm water system.

Amanda Dean, vice-president of IBC’s Atlantic office, said the rain barrels had the capacity to reduce the flow rate to the treatment plant by as much as 4.5 per cent.

“From the insurance perspective we’re seeing more water-related claims, more sewer backups so we want to be part of the conversation (in finding solutions),’’ Dean told The Guardian.

One thousands rain barrels hold a total of 200,000 litres of water, enough to protect a wastewater system from overflowing.

Dean said the study also shows 90 per cent of the rain barrels donated to residents were installed correctly.

She said it only takes a mere extra five litres of water to cause the town’s system to overflow.

Mayor David Dunphy says the results are good news for the town.

“Stratford residents were very proactive about making our community more resilient to climate change (and) they were eager to participate,’’ Dunphy said.

Callaghan said it’s easy to install and store away for the winter. It comes with a screen so dirt doesn’t get in and mosquitos can’t lay eggs.

“We’ve got it hooked up to our regular garden hose with the nozzle on the end and it works perfect. The flowers and tomato plants love it. I don’t know what it is but I think there are more nutrients (in rain water).’’

Kevin Reynolds, development officer with the town, said it only makes sense to take pressure off the municipality’s water system.

“They may seem little but if every person does something little it’s a huge change in the community,’’ Reynolds said.




- Insurance Bureau of Canada launch initiative on Thursday, Sept. 17 at Westwood school in Cornwall where it will give 500 rain barrels to town residents. Residents can pick up a free barrel, while supplies last, on Saturday, Sept. 19 beginning at 9 a.m. at the Terry Fox Sports Complex.

- Town of Stratford had additional 20 rain barrels to give away as of Wednesday. Contact the town for more information.

- The Cornwall Area Watershed Group will also be conducting a free tree giveaway at the exact same time. The J.F. Gaudet Nursery is donating the trees, all native to P.E.I.

 - Insurance Bureau of Canada donated 1,000 rain barrels to Stratford residents in 2012.

- Those barrels had the capacity to reduce the flow rate to the town’s treatment plant by as much as 4.5 per cent.

- One rain barrel holds 200 litres of rainwater; 1,000 barrels hold 200,000 litres, enough to protect a wastewater system from overflowing.