LIVINGSTON, NJ - Approximately 35 people attended Tuesday night's rain barrel workshop at the Livingston Library. Developed by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, its aim is to provide lectures and hands-on training to homeowners and other groups on topics such as rain barrels and rain gardens.

In attendance was Livingston Mayor Arlene Johnson who told The Alternative Press "Livingston is one of five towns in New Jersey cooperating with Rutgers University Cooperative Extension and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to help [Livingston] install rain gardens and retrofitting Monmouth Court with low-flow fixtures and faucets." She went on to say, "Our goal is to raise awareness with citizens for a ten percent townwide water reduction over the next three years."

Adam Osborn from Americorps lectured on the benefits of owning a rain barrel and how to assemble it. Besides saving homeowners money on watering their greenery, it can lessen basement flooding as well as prevent water runoff from polluting our local waterways. "The old way of thinking was to send rainwater away into a pipe and into a sewer. Now we want to harvest and capture water, helping to control water pollution from dirt, pesticides, fertilizers, oil and other pathogens."

The water can be used to water lawns and shrubbery even when there are water restrictions because it is not being taken from the town's water supply. Osborn cautioned against using the water to drink or to irrigate fruits and vegetables because it may contain dust, pollen and animal droppings from the roof.

If you are thinking about obtaining a rain barrel here is what you need to know. Use the collected water within a week or two to discourage algae growth. When full, a 55-gallon rain barrel can weigh about 460 pounds. Therefore, it needs to be set on a strong platform made of either bricks, cinder blocks or pressure-treated wood. In the winter it needs to be drained and disconnected. The rain barrel can be stored inside or stored outdoors turned upside down.

Armed with newfound knowledge as well as goggles and drills, the group set about assembling their barrels outside on the library's terrace. Participant Ben Kim steadied the barrel while his wife Becky drilled the hole for the faucet. Said Becky, "This is for our new home in Montclair."

The barrels, made of food-grade plastic, so as not to leach barrel material into the water, can hold 55 gallons of rainfall. On average, a homeowner can save 1300 gallons of water a year. The 40 barrels distributed Tuesday night can collectively save 52,000 gallons a year.

Renee Resky, Livingston's Environmental Commissioner said, "It's a drop in the bucket, literally, but it adds up."

For more information on where and when workshops are being offered, go to www.water.rutgers.edu and click on Rain Barrels.