The Rain Barrel Workshop will teach you how to make the world -- and your wallet -- better

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You come here because the Big Boi hip-hop show scheduled for tonight at Altar Bar in the Strip District has been canceled. (It seems Big Boi was giving it all at a show in Chillicothe, Ill., about two weeks ago, when he jumped to accentuate the end of a song and blew out his knee.)

What to do tonight?

Well, you could still go to Altar Bar at 1620 Penn Ave. and have a good time.

Or you could head to the City-County Building on Grant Street, Downtown, for the Rain Barrel Workshop, where residents can learn how the simple use of a rain barrel can make their world -- and their wallets -- better.

The cost is $50, but that's a drop in the bucket when you compare it to the good it will do you.

"The class gives you everything you want to know about the watershed. It's a watershed awareness/rain barrel workshop," said Nancy Martin, an environmental educator for the Pennsylvania Resources Council. "All of the participants will receive a 55-gallon drum and all of the equipment they need to go home and make their own rain barrel.

"We also tell people about how the way that we live on the land protects the water in our rivers and streams, and many, many things that we can do in and around the home to alleviate some of the storm-water management problems that plague this region."

The Pennsylvania Resources Council, founded in 1939, is a nonprofit group focused on "healthy home-healthy planet."

The council conducts these workshops throughout the year at libraries and garden centers in outlying municipalities.

Tonight's event is unique because it will be held in the city's headquarters, right in the heart of Pittsburgh.

It was the Propel Pittsburgh Commission -- a young-adult effort run out of the mayor's office -- that reached out to the PRC to put the evening together.

Officially titled "Celebrate the Rain/Watershed Awareness/Rain Barrel Workshop," it finds the sunny side of our rain. You catch the rain as it comes off your roof, and rather than watch it flood out the sewer grates, you save the water and release it later for your landscaping.

"Usually, the rain falls, drains and is shipped off to Alcosan," Ms. Martin said. "We are allowing the water to be absorbed into the ground on the site where the water fell.

"It's an old-fashioned idea. It's simply a container for water that you harvest from your roof. So by using a rain barrel, you're conserving water, you're reducing the chlorine that you put on your garden. You're saving money and reducing water overflow and the pollution problem that we have here."

You might think these big drums are a bit unsightly. Until you realize the good that they're doing you and the environment.

"There are many, many versions of the rain barrel," Ms. Martin said. "It can be anything from a plastic drum to a wooden barrel. At my house I have an 1,150-gallon above-ground cistern, which is basically an overgrown rain barrel.

"We calculate that a house with a 1,000-square-foot base can harvest 24,000 gallons of water annually in this region. So one rain barrel can get 24,000 gallons of water out of the system."

Maybe even more during the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

"It's actually not much work at all," Ms. Martin said. "It really only takes about 15 minutes to put it together. You've got one opening for water coming in, one opening where water is coming out, and one for the overflow. Three holes in a barrel and then you stick in your hardware."

So, once again, you go to the City-County Building at 414 Grant St. tonight at 6. You pay $50 and you get a 55-gallon drum that is about 2-feet-by-3-feet. (Remember, you have to fit it into your vehicle.) And you get the hardware you'll need.

Olivia Benson, youth policy manager for the mayor's office, said they hope to have enough barrels for all who attend. If they don't have enough barrels on hand tonight, they promise you'll get a rain barrel rain check.

If you can't make it tonight, go to Pennsylvania Resources Council at for details on future sessions. (Next month will be in Whitehall.)

And watch this space for updates on Big Boi.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to:


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