Rain barrels collect up to 55 gallons of stormwater, which can be used for lawn care. 

Did you know that rainwater is one of several ways harmful chemical runoff enters Sarasota's Bay and the Gulf Coast each year? Besides reducing lawn watering and fertilizer use, homeowners can also install rain barrels to reduce runoff, which collect and filter up to 55 gallons of rainwater. This summer, Sarasota County's Rain Barrel program is offering free virtual workshops on how to install rain barrels on your property. Workshops will take place on the county's website on Saturday, Aug. 15 and Sept. 19. Participants can also purchase their own rain barrel kits, and pick them up at one of several convenient locations offered by the county. 

UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences horticulture specialist Wilma Holley will be hosting the workshops, and shares what participants can expect. 

"The workshops will give a synopsis of rain barrel benefits, how to install your kit, Florida-friendly landscaping principles and the different ways that collected rainwater can be used," says Holley. Each barrel contains a filter at the top, making water clean enough to water certain plants in your yard, wash your car or even fill the dog's water bowl. Pumps and spigots can also be attached to barrels, allowing water to flow through a hose. The workshop will also discuss UF/IFAS' extension purposes, and ways the program supports the community.  

Since the program's start in 2009, more than 3,300 barrels have been purchased by home and business owners, which is enough to collect 18 million gallons of the area's annual rainfall. "This effort has helped reduce erosion and chemicals from entering local water sources," says Holley. Homeowners can also save some money on water usage if using more than one barrel at a time. 

Complete kits cost $37 plus fees for a barrel and basic connection plumbing. Register for a workshop or purchase a kit here

To register for Sarasota County's Rain Barrel Program virtual workshop, click here

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