As part of its storm water management strategy, the village of Brookfield mandated last year that all homeowners disconnect their downspouts from the combined sewer system.

Now the village is offering another incentive for disconnecting those downspouts — free rain barrels, courtesy of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD).

Last month, the Brookfield Village Board voted to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the MWRD, allowing homeowners to receive up to four rain barrels free of charge.

The MWRD is covering the cost of the rain barrels and will distribute them to residents at no cost to Brookfield. According to the MWRD, the goal of the program is to decrease the amount of storm water flowing into the combined sewer system during heavy rain events.

When the combined sewers reach capacity, they begin to surcharge and back up into basements and streets.

“The goal … is removing the direct load from entering the sewer system, reducing basement backups and reducing combined sewer overflow volume, overland flooding and infiltration and inflow,” stated the MWRD in an informational brochure explaining the program. “The district believes the value of keeping water out of the system will benefit the community.”

Water collected in rain barrels can be reused in gardens and to wash vehicles. Even if the water is simply drained from the barrel at a later time, it delays the water’s entry into the sewer system, relieving the strain the sewer system is under during heavy storms.

For its role in the program, Brookfield must provide the MWRD with a plan for utilizing the rain barrels, periodically ensure that the rain barrels have been installed properly, ensure residents know how to use and maintain the rain barrels and provide a follow-up report on the distribution of rain barrels in the village, including a list of addresses where they have been installed.

In addition to private residences, the MWRD is also extending the rain barrel offer to schools, libraries, churches and other municipal buildings, such as fire stations.

People can choose from four different colors of rain barrels, but they are also free to paint the rain barrels.

According to Nick Greifer, the village’s community and economic development director, Brookfield will begin rolling out the rain barrel program in 2-3 weeks. Application forms will be available from the village, which will submit all of the orders to the MWRD.

Griefer said that presently rain barrel deliver takes about eight weeks.

The village of Riverside entered into the rain barrel agreement with MWRD in February and recently amended its agreement with the MWRD to allow delivery of the free rain barrels to homeowners who have already disconnected their downspouts.

Information on how to obtain free rain barrels in Riverside can be found on the village of Riverside’s website (www.riverside.il.us) by clicking on “Rain Barrels” from the pull-down menu under the “For Residents” heading on the home page.