Drain-It-Yourself

Taking on pollution in the Great Lakes—one downspout at a time
Rain Barrels on the Riverfront

Volunteers assemble rain barrels on Detroit’s riverfront. | Photo courtesy of Christopher Holt

Sierra Club volunteers are taking on pollution in the Great Lakes region--home to one-fifth of the world's freshwater--one downspout at a time. In April and July, the Club's Michigan Chapter teamed up with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and other Detroit-area groups for the ongoing Rain Barrels on the Riverfront workshop at the city's scenic RiverWalk. The goal: get people to use rain barrels to catch roof runoff before it mixes with street pollutants and drains into aging sewage systems and then into rivers and Lake Erie. 

After tucking a barrel under a shortened downspout, you can capture rainwater to irrigate your garden. "Rain barrel water protects the environment and saves money," says Melissa Damaschke, director of the Club's Great Lakes Program. "Just don't drink it." 

Trenise Russell, who's been volunteering with the Club for about a year, says, "My background is in chemistry, and I've always wanted to deal with water." Damaschke's training sessions helped Russell hone her rain barrel pitch and overcome her public-speaking jitters. "I love to learn, and that's why I keep volunteering," says fellow trainer Diane Crawford. "Detroit needs more people interested in our rivers and lakes." 

 

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