By Christina Bixenman
A win-win for Fort Hays State University students and Hays community members, the Rain Barrel Project has been providing service learning opportunities and water conservation methods since 2009.
Stacie Minson, Kansas State University Watershed Specialist, and Dr. Jean Gleichsner, associate professor at Fort Hays State University, have been very involved in the Rain Barrel Project. Dr. Gleichsner said Minson first approached her with the idea of making rain barrels to catch rain off roofs and using it for landscape.
“Hays has issues with nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and E. coli,” said Minson, stating the need for water conservation and improvement in water quality. Minson said the project has a dual purpose, conserving water and saving water from bringing down pollutants.
Dr. Gleichsner said the barrels are constructed from recycled 55-gallon barrels, and then a few pipes and spouts are attached so it’s ready for homeowners to use in their yard. Barrels are assembled at the K-State Research & Extension Agricultural Research Center Agricultural Experiment Station in Hays and then sold to community members. Though originally intended to be a one-time event, the barrels became so popular that the event is now held once each semester.
“It’s fun to watch people come learn about the rain barrels and really fun to tell them about how it worked,” said Kendra Howland, a former member of Dr. Gleichsner’s Home Horticulture class. Howland helped with the project last fall and said she hopes that people using the rain barrels now will tell others about them to spread the idea.