I was informed by the city that the barrels for sale at the environmental resource event are no longer the blue eye-sores that were for sale previously:
"The rain barrels are available in black and terra cotta (brick red) this year; however, the design is similar to last year in that they are formally food processing barrels ranging from 55-60 gallons."
Rain Barrels are fantastic tools for anyone who has anything growing outdoors that needs watering. They not only help to reduce water consumption, but also reduce the runoff that occurs when Chicago's shared sewer system fills up or is stressed by rains.
I have used a water barrel connected to a drip irrigation system and a timer to automatically water my vegetables as needed on my deck-top garden, and have had fantastic results!
Rain barrels can usually run upwards of 100$, but the city of Chicago is again offering a subsidized purchase program this year, allowing any Chicagoan one barrel per household at the cost of 40$. The barrel looks about like the one on the picture below:
Questions about the city's current rain barrel programs can be answered by calling the Chicago Department of the Environment at 312-743-9283 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The current rain barrel event details are as follows:
Saturday June 21st
US Cellular field
333W 35th Street
40$ for one barrel, payable by check or money order only- checks need the current city address on them, and only one rain barrel is available per household
30$ for Earth Machine Compost Bins, which include a 10 year warranty for missing / broken parts (you only pay shipping) from the manufacturer
Please see this post for more information on this Environmental Resource Event!
If you live in a building with no area to let overflow from your water barrel soak into the ground, I recommend using a downspout diverter. I have used the Garden Water saver, and though it once in a while it will clog (and no longer fill the rain barrel, but will still drain downspout water) it works pretty well.