Ephriam & Associates Environmental is a small minority business based in Whistler, Alabama. The company primarily focuses on ecological and scientific assessments. In 2019, Ephraim partnered with the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP), Greif/Soterra and Alabama Power to launch the Rain Barrel Program. This project identifies opportunities to employ low-cost, low-impact development practices at the residential scale to alleviate recurring incidents or urban flooding and provides an alternative water source to underserved communities in coastal Alabama. These residents pay significantly higher rates for water than surrounding communities.
The project took place in the Toulmins Spring Branch sub-watershed area, the tributary to the greater Three Mile Creek Watershed. It drains approximately four square miles of highly urbanized areas in the cities of Prichard and Mobile. It was placed on the State of Alabama’s impaired waters list for pathogens in 2004. The primary sources of impairment have been identified as stormwater runoff and failing sanitary sewer infrastructure.
Ephraim and the Rain Barrell Team had four main goals for their project:
- To reduce flooding in this area.
- To provide an alternative source of low-cost, non-potable water to homeowners in Prichard.
- To reduce pollution.
- To conserve water for productive reuse in this environmentally sensitive and economically strained area of Mobile County.
They decided to harvest rainwater to achieve these goals. The partners installed rain barrels at residences located upstream of significant flooding and sewer overflow hotspots to accomplish this. The barrels were constructed from recycled, food-grade 55-gallon drums and painted with algae retardant. The barrels collect stormwater from gutter downspouts and are equipped with an overflow that directs excess rainwater into a natural or vegetated area. Water collected was utilized to water plants and gardens, flush toilets, wash vehicles, etc.
The team estimated that neighborhoods consisting of 50 homes with four 55-gallon barrels installed at each home could reduce stormwater by 11,000 gallons per normal rain event.
During the project, the team serviced 157 homes and installed 330 rain barrels. The team estimated these homes can now collect 18,150 gallons of water per rain event. Prichard, on average, has nine rain events per month, which means these barrels can collect 163,350 gallons a month. The average water bill in Prichard is $47.38 per 2,000 gallons of water. Based on these numbers, its participants collectively can save $3,869.76 a month by utilizing rainwater.
Lastly, Ephraim was able to work with and train teens and young adults in the Whistler area through this project. Whistler is an economically challenged neighborhood, so Ephraim was able to show young adults the socio-economic impact of the program and educate them about careers in science and environmental stewardship.
“This project was special in several ways, but our greatest joy was being able to educate, train and influence future conservation leaders of tomorrow,” said Troy L. Ephraim, CES REP. “From the youth who were seeking job opportunities in the environmental field, the seniors who were able to irrigate their plants and gardens during drought seasons, or the many other residents who were able to save on their water utility bills.”
Ephraim and the Rain Barrel Team are making a difference in our coastal environment by directly impacting the lives (and wallets) of those in underserved communities.