If you own a home in Riverside, it’s a pretty good bet your home’s downspouts run straight into a drain that connects to the village’s combined sewer system. And, as many in Riverside learned the hard way, when that sewer system fills to capacity during heavy rains, it backs up into people’s basements.

But now there’s an opportunity for Riverside homeowners to do their part in helping take storm water runoff out of the combined sewer system, courtesy of a partnership between the village and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD).

On Jan. 15, Riverside’s village board voted unanimously to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the MWRD to provide rain barrels — for free — to homeowners whose downspouts connect to the sewer system.

The partnership fits nicely into the village’s policy of pursuing sustainable solutions in the village. In 2008, voters passed an advisory referendum by a 4-to-1 margin calling for the village to seek out ways to incorporate sustainability into its policies.

The village, for example, has constructed a parking lot and two alleys using permeable pavers, which keeps more storm runoff out of the combined sewer system by letting it seep into the ground.

Riverside is also using permeable pavers as part of its streetscape improvement project for East Burlington Street in the downtown area, which is slated for construction later this year.

In order to qualify for free rain barrels, you must own a home where downspouts are connected to the sewer system. Participants in the free program also must agree to disconnect their downspouts from the sewer system and install the rain barrels within 90 days, according to the agreement approved by the village board on Jan. 15.

The village has begun sending out notices about the new program in water bills. When the village receives word from the MWRD that the program is a go, officials will post information on how to apply for one or more rain barrels on the Riverside village website at www.riverside.il.us.

“It’s still in process, but we will be moving forward with it shortly,” said Cathy Haley, Riverside’s village clerk.

While the rain barrel program is free only to those whose downspouts are still connected to the sewer system, anyone can order an MWRD rain barrel through the village. The cost for those who don’t qualify for the free barrels is $58 per barrel.

The barrels come in several colors and can be painted to make them more decorative. For additional information, contact Riverside’s village office at 708-447-2700.

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