We had a lot of rain this spring and early summer. Did you take advantage of all that free water?

How would you do that, you might ask?

Why, with a rain barrel. It collects rain water which can be used to water your flower plants and gardens.

The Monroe County Conservation District (MCCD) advises residents and businesses to purchase rain barrels. It is a way to conserve water and prevent water pollution because "we all live downstream."

In a watershed, we all live downstream. This means that the quality of water available to us is determined by our upstream neighbors. It is vital that we serve as environmental stewards of our watersheds, protecting the quality of that water for those who live downstream. And remember, everyone lives downstream.

To make it fun and creative, MCCD came up with "Retain the Rain." It is a community art project of the MCCD, funded by the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Inc. and in partnership with the Pocono Arts Council, the Monroe Career and Technical Institute, the Brodhead Watershed Association, and the Brodhead Creek Regional Authority.

To date 80 rain barrels have been sold with 4,000 gallons of water saved in the first rainstorm alone.

Of those 80, 20 were decorated by local artists and groups of all ages. Each uniquely painted barrel takes a different spin on the message to prevent water pollution because "we all live downstream."

Now if you're looking for something fun to do this fall, load the kids up in the car and go on a Retain the Rain self-guided tour between now through October. Stop by the MCCD's Environmental Education Center, located at 8050 Running Valley Rd., Stroudsburg, and pick up a map with the locations, which are all through Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg area or it can be found on the website at www.mcconservation [2].

Motivated by concerns of global climate change, the U.S. environmental movement has heightened awareness on how individual actions and choices impact the environment and our health. One significant way we impact our surroundings is by how we manage our storm water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is the nation's largest source of water quality problems. NPS pollution takes place when rainwater or snowmelt flows over impervious surfaces and through the landscape picking up pollutants and depositing them into our streams, lakes, estuaries and oceans.

Some of these NPS pollutants include: motor vehicle contaminants; lawn and garden pesticides and nutrients; sediment; road salts; thermal pollution from impervious surfaces such as roofs and roadways; heavy metals from homes and vehicles.

Homeowners can help reduce NPS pollutants from entering the environment by retaining storm water on site. Integrating rainwater harvesting systems along with other eco-sensitive landscape techniques will help minimize water pollution.

More than 14,000 people globally die daily due to water pollution.

Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

In a recent U.S. national report, 45 percent of assessed stream miles, 47 percent of assessed lake acres, and 32 percent of assessed bays and estuarine square miles were classified as polluted.

Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater.) Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds.

Water pollution affects plants and organisms living in these bodies of water. In almost all cases the effect is damaging not only to individual species and populations, but also to the natural biological communities.

Water is considered polluted when it does not support a human use, such as drinking water, and/or cannot support biotic communities, such as fish. Natural phenomena such as volcanoes, algae blooms, storms, and earthquakes also cause major changes in water quality and the ecological status of water.

MCCD encourages everyone to do what they can to help prevent water pollution for all of us who live downstream.

Help Retain the Rain. Get a rain barrel today. Then for some fun, paint it with your vision of how to prevent water pollution or what clean water means to you and the environment. But first, why not take the self-guided tour and see how some other concerned citizens decorated their rain barrels.

For more information, call (570) 629-3060, (570) 629-3061 or visit www.mcconservation.org [3].