This past weekend, Public Lab and Recharge NOLA, with Water Wise 7th Ward, led a joint workshop to build rain gauges and rain barrels with New Orleans 7th Ward residents at Dillard Community Resource Center. Over the course of the event, 20 participants worked to build 11 rain gauges and 11 rain barrels.
For the first part of the workshop, participants shared ideas and examples for why rain gauges are useful and important. For example:
- In New Orleans, rain data comes from the airport, which often doesn’t reflect more localized rain data.
- The rain gauge can help people figure out how much rain it takes accumulate stormwater in a local area and cause flooding.
- The gauge can also help us to know how much water is in a rain barrel after a rain event.
We then used instructions based off of these materials to consturct rain gauges together.
This was the first time I had done this workshop, so gathering edits and ideas for the instructional materials was really helpful. For example the materials need to explicitly say that the gauges need to sit on a flat surface when people are drawing the lines, and that using food coloring in the water can make the water line easier to see. Participants also brainstormed ideas on how to set the gauges up outside after the event, for example we discussed options around signposts, zip ties, hose clamps, and even flower pots.
In the second part of the workshop, Hilairie Schackai with Recharge NOLA, a partner of Water Wise Water Wise used materials she had put together ([available here] (http://bit.ly/DIY_RWH_WaterWiseNOLA_updated11-22-15)) to explain the importants, and the various uses of rain barrels. She then walk participants through constructing their own barrels.
I had never participated in a rain barrel workshop before and some of the important takeaways I had from the experience were that:
- The barrels need to be emptied after each rain event, so they are useful in helping to reduce stormwater runoff during the next storm.
- It’s important to use screen materials over the holes on the rain barrels to keep mosquitos and their larvae out.
- While rain barrels are fun and useful in thinking about alternative uses of stormwater (watering your lawn or garden, washing cars, and generally reducing your water bill), they also significantly reduce the amount of water our stormwater system needs to handle in a rain event. The data Hillarie about the relationship between rain captured and flooding was staggering - read her materials!