Bellingham offering rainwater harvesting grants for community gardens

Community gardens could get up to $2,000 from the city to help install rainwater harvesting systems that can serve as examples for other people.

More than one demonstration project might be funded this spring, said Anitra Accetturo, program coordinator for the city’s Water Use Efficiency Program, which will provide the grants.

“The whole point of this is to provide public places where people can go to view these rainwater harvesting systems,” Accetturo said. “People don’t necessarily want to take a workshop, but they might want to better understand the system hands-on. By having these systems out there, people can see the different materials, tanks, and different uses.”

To qualify, a community garden needs to actively be in use (or in development to be used) for the public or a community group. Nonprofits, community groups, schools, and neighborhood associations in Bellingham city limits can apply, according to city staff.

Applications are due by April 8. The city will again take applications from Aug. 10 to Aug. 26. Proposals should include information about the garden where the system would be installed, including how it is organized, who runs it, and information that might point to how easy it would be to put a rainwater system in there, Accetturo said.

The grant money can be used for materials, such as gutters, downspouts, tanks, pipe fittings and base materials, and the plan is to help put in simple, above-ground systems that wouldn’t require permits, Accetturo said.

“There’s a slight intimidation factor with the larger tanks, so this is kind of introducing them, and making it a little less intimidating,” Accetturo said. “There are so many styles and designs, I don’t want people to get locked into, ‘Oh, it’s just a blue barrel.’”

The type of rainwater harvesting systems the city wants to help install collect rain from roofs or other surfaces that water runs off, for outdoor irrigation.

The Water Use Efficiency Program promotes using rainwater for outdoor needs to save energy and water, reduce stormwater runoff, and save drinking water for drinking. People who harvest rainwater can save money on the metered portion of their water bills.

“This is kind of to plant the seed, so to speak,” Accetturo said. “It would be great if rainwater collection was just like home recycling: Everybody had a tank on their home for outdoor irrigation uses, and it was commonplace, where we didn’t have to think about it.”

More information and the application PDF can be found by searching for “rainwater harvesting” at cob.org or by calling Accetturo at 360-778-7700.