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Save Barnegat Bay (SBB) hosted its largest-ever rain barrel workshop on Friday of Memorial Day weekend in Stafford Township, with over 50 participants who had signed up to make their own rain barrels out of 55-gallon drums, and take them home  to help the environment and enhance gardens.

A woman in front of a large blue barrel speaks to an audience

CONSERVE, PRESERVE: Graceann Taylor, education and outreach coordinator for Save Barnegat Bay, explains the how and why of rain barrels. Over 50 participants showed up. Photo credit: Ryan Morrill

Rain barrels have long tubes connecting to gutters to collect storm water from rooftops, which helps the environment by mitigating flooding and keeping runoff out of water systems. They also give residents a consistent supply of fresh and soft water, free of chlorine, lime and calcium, which can be used to water gardens and indoor plants and wash windows and cars. A standard rain barrel has a screen top to keep out insects seeking breeding grounds, as well as a vinyl hose, PVC couplings and other parts that can be found at any hardware store.

Lisa and Jeff Lopez, who made a date night of the event, were looking forward to incorporating their rain barrel into their gardens of flowers, vegetables and herbs. Some participants said they already compost waste in their backyards as another means of sustaining their environment.

Among the participants was Township Administrator Matt von der Hayden, who heads up the Water and Sewer Department. Von der Hayden said he was pleased to see the turnout for the rain barrel workshop after working with Save Barnegat Bay as well as other entities.

In the foreground, a person sits astride a large blue barrel; people cluster around other barrels in the background

Rain barrel workshop in Stafford Township, New Jersey. Photo credit: Ryan Morrill

“Part of the workshop is to provide education on storm water, and the rain barrel project itself is something done individually to help tie in the education,” he said.

The town also partnered with the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve and Rutgers University Marine Field Station to draft a watershed management plan. That ongoing work was discussed in the workshop to help educate the public on the Southern Watershed Management Plan.

“Save Barnegat Bay’s goal is to reach all 37 towns throughout the watershed to work with them on improving their storm water” management, according to the organization’s Education and Outreach Coordinator Graceanne Taylor.

Taylor specified Save Barnegat Bay’s aim is not to come in and change what towns do, but to support and improve the work they are already doing, whether by finding solutions for issues or networking with other professionals throughout the state. Such workshops and other events are resources for residents to see how they can help protect the environment, as well as opportunities for the organization to build relationships with neighboring towns. She attributed the large turnout to Stafford’s environmental consciousness at the municipal level.

Local marinas donated the barrels, Rutgers and JCNERR paid for the hardware supplies;, and SBB and public works staff and volunteers contributed to the event. The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection helped with funding, as well as drilling holes in the barrels.

More than a dozen large blue barrels

Rain barrel workshop in Stafford Township, New Jersey. Photo credit: Ryan Morrill

This story was produced in collaboration with CivicStory ( and the NJ Sustainability Reporting project (

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