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Scrapbook: Harvesting Water for Urban Gardens in Detroit

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

May 20, 2011

Harvesting Water for Urban Gardens in Detroit


Sierra Club Great Lakes organizer Melissa Damaschke and Detroit Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships coordinator Rhonda Anderson, below, recently teamed up to put on a rain barrel workshop in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit for the Club's Great Lakes Program.


The event, which focused on collecting rain water and creating green infrastructure solutions, drew about 50 neighborhood residents and garnered coverage in the local media.


In recent years, Brightmoor residents have been planting crops in newly vacant lots in their neighborhood. Now they'll help supply their water needs by collecting rain water in barrels, preventing that water from running off into city sewers. And they'll save money in the process by using the collected water instead of water from the tap. That's Sierra Club organizer Michelle Martinez, below.


"We're helping to prevent water from going down drains, which prevents sewage overflows," Damaschke, below, told The Michigan Citizen. "An inch of rainfall a day is way too much for our local wastewater plant."


During heavy rains, collecting rainwater before the local wastewater plant becomes overwhelmed does a great service to the local environment, Damaschke said. When water levels at the treatment plant rise too high, the water—much of it untreated—is regularly released into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers.


Monique Adams and her son Brandon, below, were two of the Brightmoor residents attending the rain barrel workshop. "We'll use the collected water for our newly planted vegetable garden, watering the flowers, and washing the car," Monique said. "These barrels will help with anything we need water for."


All community residents who attended the workshop left with a 55-gallon terra cotta container, purchased by the Sierra Club from Detroit’s Maxi Container, Inc., a family-owned local business for over 100 years.


The Michigan Sierra Club received a $75,000 grant from the Detroit-based Erb Family Foundation to fund the workshop.


Watch this video of the rain barrell workshop, and learn more about what the Sierra Club is doing to help protect the Great Lakes.


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