Boston Building Resources carries 65-gallon Moby and 50-gallon Ivy rain barrels, both of which are made by Rain Water Solutions in Raleigh, North Carolina. To find out a bit more about the rain barrels that we’ve come to know and love, we had a Q&A session with Lynn Ruck, co-owner of Rain Water Solutions.
BBR: How did you get into the rain barrel business?
Lynn: We started in 1999, when North Carolina was experiencing a severe drought. My husband, Mike, and I had a rain barrel in our back yard. We thought more people could use rain barrels, so we did some research. We got a truckload of pickle barrels from Canada, which we were able to retrofit. We took a few to local garden centers, but no one was interested. Then we got the idea of working with city agencies. It was successful, but retrofitting the barrels was hard work. We knew we could design a better mousetrap.
BBR: Tell me about the process of designing the rain barrels.
Lynn: We designed Moby in 2000 and began to market him in 2002. Moby was one of only three rain barrels being sold nationwide at that time. When we went to production, we had 100% recycled plastic available, which we were happy to use. We knew we needed a large overflow port. We felt strongly about having a brass spigot. Later, during a severe drought, the spigot was unavailable for six months because they come from China, and distributors had sold out.
BBR: And then you designed Ivy?
Lynn: As the demand increased, we designed Ivy. We wanted her to be very efficient in nesting and storing. We can fit 33 Ivys per shipping pallet compared to 12 Mobys. This has enabled us to get the barrels across the country affordably. The ball valve we use for Ivy is made in the United States and can be produced as we need them. The barrel was really designed around the ball valve. During the design process, we worked with Dennis Lye from the EPA, who was researching the health effects of rain barrels. The spigot on the Ivy is very low, and this prevents water from sitting for too long and becoming stagnant.
BBR: You refer to Moby and Ivy as “him” and “her.” Why is that?
Lynn: It adds a little personality, and is more fun!
BBR: Do you manufacture the barrels in house?
Lynn: We contract for the manufacturing, using mostly local companies here in North Carolina. We are a B corporation, which means we have a triple bottom line: profit, social benefit, and environmental benefit, so we have made a concerted effort to support our local business community. All components are made in America.
BBR: If someone was on the fence about getting a rain barrel, what would you say to convince them?
Lynn: A rain barrel is not only for conserving water, but also for preserving water quality. Even if you don’t garden, slowing down the runoff of storm water will help your local water quality, because water is collected in the barrel instead of flowing to the street and down the storm drain. A lot of storm drains go straight into the water supply. In Greater Boston, some storm drains flow directly to Boston Harbor. It’s much better for the environment if the water is filtered through the soil first. According to the EPA, 40% of household water usage in summer is from lawn and garden watering. Homeowners can save 1,300 gallons of tap water every summer by purchasing a rain barrel.
BBR: Both Moby and Ivy have screens to keep out mosquitoes. Are there any cases where people still have trouble?
Lynn: The screens prevent mosquitoes from entering the barrels and laying eggs, but they can lay eggs in the gutters that hold water, and those will wash down during a rain storm and enter the barrels. When they hatch, they can’t get out. Or, the barrel may have a puncture. If someone feels they have mosquito activity getting into their barrels, we recommend using Mosquito Dunks. You can break off a small piece and put it in the barrel to kill the eggs.
BBR: What are your thoughts on today’s water-related challenges in the U.S.?
Lynn: It’s all about educating people about what’s happening in their part of the country. There are two main issues: water quantity and water quality. Rain barrels are an inexpensive educational tool and an important piece of the puzzle. Our experience has been that, with education and instruction, most people want to learn about steps they can take to make a difference. It’s an ongoing process of changing old habits. We are watching the state of California very closely now. They have a goal of cutting water use by 20% by 2020. They have many challenges ahead of them, as do other parts of the country.
BBR: Do you have any stories of people who have used the rain barrels in creative ways?
Lynn: There was one gentleman in Knoxville, Tennessee, who linked nine rain barrels together. We have also seen rain barrels used for livestock and wildlife use. We have one client who used his rain barrel as a water source for the toilet in his hunting cabin.