COLUMBIA - Blue rain barrels around Columbia are the city's latest way to help recycling and Columbia resident Allison Vaughn has seen the benefits. All the storm water from Vaughn's land runs off into Flatbranch Creek, but it's not just storm water flooding into the creek.
"You're bringing all the pollutants, trash, all the junk," Vaughn said.
Vaughn is doing her part to stop those pollutants, like fertilizer, from getting into waterways by using a rain barrel. Her family got their barrel from Columbia's rain barrel give away program. The city is offering free barrels to anyone who wants one. The goal is to make people more aware of their affect on the local waterways.
"This is the water that we recreate in, the water that inevitably will become our drinking water for everyone," Columbia storm water educator Mike Heimos said. "Not just the people of Columbia, but the people of the United States and the world."
Heimos doesn't just organize the rain barrel program, he also practices what he preaches.
"One of the easiest things you can do at your house, with a rain barrel system like this, is hook it up to a timer," Heimos said. "I have one set up in my back yard that goes off 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 minutes at night. It's hooked up to some soaker hoses set in my garden."
Using the rain water to water your plants is actually better for them than the water from your house.
"We're talking water that's been treated, and spraying it all over our plants," Heimos said. "They don't need that water. Plants need to have need soft rain water."
This water is free and saving residents money on their water bills. Using the barrels is simple.
"The rain barrels are set up to collect the rain water from your roof, so you connect it to your gutters," Vaughn said.
Doug Vaughn explained how it works.
"It needs two holes to drain the water, one at the bottom to fill up a rain can, and if the rain's too much, we've got a little overflow on the side," Doug Vaughn said.
"The last thing that's really important when you do the barrels is deciding where you want it on top, that's why we're giving away the barrels unmade," Heimos said. "So people can decide, do I want it to the left, to the right...getting the water into the barrel."
The unmade barrel is free. Constructing the barrels cost about 25 dollars and just a few hours of time, but it makes a big impact.
"If everyone had one of these, we'd actually start to see less water go into the storm drain systems and less flood affects," Allison Vaughn said.
Columbia started giving out the barrels weeks ago. Since then, they have given out more than 60 barrels.