Mar 24, 2014 14:03 Better buy the (rain) barrel Better buy the (rain) barrel Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Lisa Mahoney, Utilities Conservation Specialist for Lafayette Utilities Services stands next to one of the rain barrels that are available to parish residents at a reduced retail cost. There are a limited number of barrels available for $35 for parish residents who are current LUS water customers. Collection aids conservation, reduces runoff Annie Ourso| Special to The Advocate March 24, 2014 Comments L AFAYETTE — Lafayette Utilities System’s rain barrel program is back by popular demand, a chance for residents to save money, conserve water and cut back on run off into the Vermilion River. The 55-gallon plastic barrel can be integrated into a home’s gutter system and is equipped with a spigot allowing residents to attach a hose for normal watering jobs in the garden. The city-owned utility company offered 300 of the barrels at discount prices last spring, and sold out in just four days. Maegan Smith said she has owned an LUS rain barrel for two years and uses it to water her small garden in Lafayette. “It’s been great. I’ve been able to water all my patio plants without turning on the hose,” Smith said. “It’s much better for orchids, which I also have, and your regular plants because it doesn’t have the amount of chlorine as tap water.” This year, LUS will provide 450 barrels at the discounted price of $35 for LUS water customers in the city of Lafayette. Other Lafayette Parish residents can purchase the rain barrels for the wholesale price of $54. LUS conservation specialist Lisa Mahoney said the rain barrels could help ease demand on the water system in the spring and summer months when residential consumption increases by about 30 percent, an increase due in part to residents watering their lawns and gardens. The rain barrels offer an alternative. The barrels are placed outside homes to collect and store rainwater at the downspout or the lowest pitch area of rooftops. In addition to conserving water and saving money on water bills, the rain barrel program also will improve the water quality of the Vermilion River by keeping rainwater from flowing over yards and streets and picking up pollutants before flowing into a storm drain and, ultimately, into the Vermilion River, Mahoney said. LUS launched the rain barrel program as a pilot project in 2012, providing 150 barrels at no cost. LUS returned with a more substantial offering in 2013 with 300 discounted barrels, and even after those ran out, residents continued to buy the barrels at a higher wholesale price. “This year, we increased the number of discounted barrels available due to the demand received last year, so I expect for our participation number to grow,” Mahoney said. The rain barrel program recently received a “Special Recognition Award” from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s voluntary Environmental Leadership Program. For information on ordering a rain barrel, visit www.lus.org/rainbarrel.