LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — In an effort to conserve water, the city of Leander is starting a rainwater harvesting program that provides the community a discounted price on collection barrels for their homes.

The 50 gallon rain barrels are designed to collect rainwater that flows off the roof of a home that can then be used for different applications, such as watering home gardens and washing vehicles.

Water system struggling to keep up

The city of Leander is currently in a moderate drought. The city has experienced 4.28″ of rain since the start of the year, according to KXAN’s meteorologist team.

As the city continues to grow in size and population, it is trying to find ways to conserve water. The city hired a water conservation program coordinator last summer to bring new ideas and education to the community.

“We’ve had a lot of growth. It was very rapid, and our water system has struggled to keep up,” Bill Teeter, Leander’s conservation coordinator, explained.

The city is no stranger to water conservation efforts. The regional utility that provides some of Leander’s drinking water experienced a pipe malfunction that forced the water treatment plant to close down temporarily, and caused the community to go under Phase 3 water conservation efforts. The city government asked people to turn off irrigation systems.

That pipeline has a history of failures, and the regional utility and Leander’s mayor are worried the problem will continue into the future.

With summer approaching, when water demand is higher, the city is rolling out its rainwater barrel program.

How it works

The city partnered with Rain Water Solutions to provide 50-gallon rain barrels at a discounted price. People paid $77 for a barrel that could cost twice as much.

People can connect their downspouts to the top of the barrel, so when rain falls on the roof, it will flow into the gutters and down into the barrel. A special mesh is placed at the top of the barrel to prevent mosquitoes from collecting inside.

A valve at the bottom of the barrel allows someone to pour the water out of the barrel when they need to use it.

The water inside is not intended to be consumed. The water is meant for irrigating plants or washing vehicles.

David Stanley, a Leander resident, is one of the 229 people who purchased a barrel through the new program. He and his wife have a large garden they take care of, which can be costly. Stanley said in the summertime his water bill can be between $250 and $300 a month.

“Water is crazy expensive in Leander,” Stanley said.

Stanley already has one rain barrel in his backyard that is connected to the runoff from his 220-square-foot shed roof. He said 1/8″ of rain can fill the barrel up quick.

What is the impact?

Teeter explains the rainwater barrels are just a drop in the bucket in water conservation for Leander. He predicts the barrels that were sold could save the city between 80,000 and 90,000 gallons of water a year.

In the winter months, the city’s demand for water was between 6 and 8 million gallons of water every day, according to the city’s mayor.

Other cities in Texas also offer some type of rain harvesting program. The city of Round Rock offers its residents a rebate if they use a rainwater barrel.

The Texas Water Development Board offers a lot of resources on rain harvesting. Texas law prevents homeowners associations from banning rain barrels from people’s properties.