This just in from Butler University and the Center for Urban Ecology:

INDIANAPOLIS — Butler University's Center for Urban Ecology has received a $19,935 grant from United Water to purchase and install 20 rain barrels or cisterns at six locations around the city to collect water that will be tested for purity, used for irrigation and help prevent flooding.

The project, a small-scale test of what CUE Director Tim Carter hopes will grow into a citywide program, also will be funded by a $7,900 matching grant from the Butler Institute for Research and Scholarship.

"While individually a single rain barrel may make little difference for the storm drain system, a widespread rain barrel and cistern network in Indianapolis would alleviate the current strain on the city's combined stormwater management systems," Carter said. "As runoff effects are reduced, fewer pollutants are added to the system, and water quality is improved."

The water that's collected would be suitable for landscape irrigation and, potentially, for irrigating edible gardens. That would help alleviate the strain on the city's existing water supply.

The rain barrel project calls for installations at the Green Broad Ripple Community Garden (two rain barrels), the Rocky Ripple Community Garden (two rain barrels), Butler's University Terrace Apartments (one 525-gallon cistern), the Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy (three rain barrels), the Harrison Center for the Arts (four rain barrels) and the Indianapolis Project School (one 550-gallon cistern).

Most of those sites are located near edible gardens.

The rain barrels and cisterns will be installed in the first half of 2010, and Butler students will develop what's known as a micro-green infrastructure map that will identify locations around the city such as community gardens and other rain barrels. Beginning in June, biweekly water-quality sampling will begin, and in the final four months of 2010, the water analysis and mapping will be completed.

Water-quality testing will done in the laboratory of Butler Chemistry Professor Olujide Akinbo.

Carter said the project will benefit Indianapolis' aging storm sewer system.

"During many storm events, the combined sewer system in the central part of Indianapolis cannot accommodate large volumes of water," he wrote in the grant proposal.

Heavy storms lead to overflow and pollution of the White River and its tributaries.

"Through on-the-ground installations, scientific research, technology development and community participation, this project represents a new approach to green infrastructure development that is simultaneously structural, scientific and educational," Carter said. "The products will benefit the Indianapolis community long after the grant cycle has been completed and provide a model for future work in the field."


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