U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. — Cory Lyons and Dan Nelson are proud owners of the biggest rain barrel system in the state — or so they claim.
It's only their opinion, but it's hard to dispute when you stare at the 22 barrels propped up against their building.
Nelson calls it “extreme rain barreling.”
They built the system to collect rain for their big vegetable garden in the back of their business, Vahallan Papers Inc. Both men grew up with gardens and wanted to do something for their kids and employees.
The men bought the food-grade barrels from an Omaha vendor and scavenged plastic pipe from John's Plumbing across the street. They placed the barrel and piping system on a long wooden rack with one spigot that connects to a garden hose.
Nelson, 42, credits Lyons for designing the system and doing most of the work, which was completed just in time for a thunderstorm that rolled through. It filled all the rain barrels to the brim overnight.
The system collects rain from half of their metal roof, which covers an area of about 3,200 square feet. The total capacity of their 22 rain barrels is 990 gallons.
Lyons, 36, said they built the system because the company has always done things “green,” even before it became trendy. They spent about $500 for materials and put in 40 hours of labor.
Vahallan Papers manufactures hand-painted wall coverings and uses natural craft paper and no vinyl or polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. To save energy, the lights in the building go off when no one is in a room and employees recycle cardboard and other paper waste. And they use very little machinery in their operation.
“More than 95 percent of what we do is by hand,” Nelson said.
Ed Kouma, who teaches a class in rain barrel making with colleague Amanda Meder, said he's never heard of a rain barrel system so large.
“We tell people to build two or three together, but we haven't told anyone they should put 22 together,” said Kouma, an engineer with the watershed division at the city Public Works and Utilities Department.
Rain barrels are very popular these days. More and more people are buying them as a way to conserve water and reduce pollution. Kouma said rain barrels “intercept” water before it gets a chance to flow across lawns, sidewalks and driveways.
“Every class that we've had has filled up and there is a waiting list,” Kouma said. “People are tickled to get one.”
Meder and Kouma build between 12 and 18 barrels for each class they have offered through Southeast Community College and other places. Participants who enroll not only get a barrel, but also learn how to make more.
Lyons said he never took any classes, but he and Nelson did research on the Internet. His first rain barrel took him about a half hour to build.
“The last one took him six to nine minutes,” Nelson said.
Lyons said the system is spaced so they can squeeze in 10 more rain barrels.
Said Nelson: “Our long-term goal is to put some kind of drip (irrigation) system in.”
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