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Save money by learning to make a rain barrel
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Kevin Finney of the city of Gainesville cuts a hole in the top of a rain barrel. - photo by Tom Reed
If only every resident could have saved some of the 7 inches of rain that Tropical Storm Fay dumped at Gainesville’s Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport last week, watering lawns under tight watering restrictions might not be an issue for a while.

Gainesville water conservation specialist Scarlett Fuller is out to teach anyone who will listen how some of the rain might be saved.

Fuller holds workshops that help Gainesville gardeners keep their landscapes hydrated in the driest of times, teaching gardeners how to make their own rain barrels, how to hook them up to rain gutters and where to place them.

For $25, students can take home a rain barrel and the knowledge to make more — a steal, said Gainesville’s environmental monitoring coordinator Brian Wiley, considering rain barrels can cost anywhere from $60 to $250.

And along with the workshop, Billy Skaggs, Hall County’s extension agent, will give students tips on proper watering and gardening, Fuller said.

The workshops have been pretty popular so far, and, in the first three workshops, Fuller said the classes have been filled to the brim. Her fourth workshop, scheduled for Thursday, is already full with 28 participants registered to attend.

"We usually end up turning a few people away," Fuller said.

Making rain barrels has become popular since Northeast Georgia has been under the state’s drought response Level 4 for nearly one year, and its residents have had limited access to outside watering.

"The drought: It’s making people more aware about how they use water and how they use water outdoors," Fuller said. "It’s a perfectly great source of water that they don’t have to pay for, so they can save money."

The rain barrels do not just benefit thirsty plants, Fuller said. They also keep large amounts of rainwater from rushing into municipal storm drains and into the streams at once, pushing sediment and trash along with it, which can hurt the streams more than it can help them, she said.

"Everybody wins with a rain barrel," Fuller said.

But for those who have not made it in to one of the workshops, there will be more. Coca-Cola recently donated 50 of the 55-gallon syrup barrels to further the future of Fuller’s rain-saving cause.

Fuller also will teach at a rain barrel workshop on Sept. 9 at North Georgia Technical College’s Currahee campus. For information on that workshop, call 706-779-8100.