A rain container that hugs your house

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Close your eyes and picture a rain barrel. Most people envision a big dark cylindrical container that stands out from the house.

But what if you were to take the structure of the house and space around it into consideration? And what if it came in different colors, including brick red?

That's what the team at StormWorks, a division of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, did when it designed the Hydra, a new "rain container" that will soon make its debut in the front, side and back yards of homes in the city's East End -- the 15206 ZIP code in particular.

The sleek plastic container can hold 116 gallons of storm water while adding, not detracting, from curb appeal.

Manufactured in Erie, the Hydra is made from recycled UV-stabilized polyethylene and sells for $275 in basic black, with a $25 upcharge for oak, green and terra cotta and $40 more for light or dark granite or red brick. The cost includes the Hydra, installation and a most important step, a stormwater property consultation.

"We go to the house, look at the total property, and we calculate the gallons of water generated at each downspout," said Luke Stamper, sales manager for StormWorks. "We want to tell the homeowner this is exactly what to expect in gallons of water from rain events."

The Hydra got its name from East End resident Cliff McGill, winner of StormWorks' "name the rain barrel contest."

A hydra is a tiny tube-shaped organism that is "only found in unpolluted rivers and streams," Mr. Stamper said. "We felt it was the perfect name."

Naming the rain barrel took only a month, but design and development took years and involved numerous groups, both public and private.

"We've been getting feedback from people for about 10 years," Mr. Stamper said. "We carried a couple of different models and every time we've gone out on an install, we got feedback."

Founded in 2010, StormWorks supports the efforts of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association by providing rainwater runoff solutions for homeowners and businesses in Allegheny County. Its employees have installed more than 1,500 rain barrels, the majority on small urban lots.

"In Pittsburgh, there are a lot of houses that take up most of the property and are close together," Mr. Stamper noted.

The Hydra offers a slim profile that makes it easier to position next to a house, behind a shrub or tight to a corner.

The in-house Hydra team included Mr. Stamper, design manager Sara Madden, executive director Brenda Smith and Kevin Gieder, CFO of the watershed association.

The group worked early on with the EcoDesigners Guild of Pittsburgh, a coalition of professionals who volunteer their expertise in sustainability and green design to small organizations and nonprofits. Hydra went from an idea to production in two years. The new containers will begin arriving the third week in May.

"We already have a list of people that are waiting for the Hydra to arrive," said Mr. Stamper.

People who live in the 15206 ZIP code may be eligible to receive a free or subsidized Hyda. Apply at http://project15206.org/node/4. For more information, go to www.stormworkspgh.com or call 412-371-8779, ext. 120.

Lizabeth Gray: lgray@post-gazette.com.

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