When it rains, it shines

by Amelia Ackley and Maggie Mianecke

WMEAC’s Rainy Day Contest aims to improve stormwater quality, reduce flooding, and increase water conservation in four Grand Rapids neighborhoods. WMEAC is working in collaboration with neighborhood organizations, the City of Grand Rapids, and other partners to carry out this project by implementing residential Green Infrastructure practices and helping residents reduce water utility costs. In the past several months, WMEAC has rolled out the Rainy Day Contest by providing low-flow toilets, showerheads, and aerators; rain barrels; and home water use and “Rainscaping” (landscaping for rainwater capture) assessments to participants. Rain gardens will also be installed for interested participants who have a suitable area in their yard. The contest awards prizes to participants for  reducing water usage.

In the first round of the contest, 17 applicants were selected from the Baxter/MLK, Roosevelt Park, Garfield Park, and Seeds of Promise neighborhoods to see who could reduce their water consumption the most after their water saving devices were installed. Priority was given to homeowners who had been in their homes for 10 years or more and renters who were responsible for their own water bill and had support from their landlord. Income restrictions were applied. 

Asucena Cervantes and Amy Brower, who work for the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, have taken an active role in Rainy Day. “We didn’t know what to expect, but had a high response rate and there is continued interest,” said Amy. Asucena explains that offering Rainy Day is a benefit to their community for lowering utility costs because many people in their neighborhood have concerns about their budget and income. “Community members are wanting more savings,” she shares. Rainy Day is providing education about water use and cost-effective water saving options, according to Amy and Asucena.  

Janice, a Baxter community member, found out about Rainy Day after seeing a flyer in her friend’s shop in Eastown. “I thought I wouldn’t qualify. I thought I would need more experience, but I thought I would challenge myself to see what I could do with it.” As an artist, Janice sees Rainy Day through a creative lens. “People of color don’t normally do ‘nature-things’ a lot. Back in the day we did, but not anymore. But I thought I could change that.  I wanted to get back to those projects like they used to do. I wanted to do one thing to get the kids outdoors, get dirty, to play a game, to know the people in their neighborhood.” Janice believes in the importance of greenspace and wants to see more greenspace in her community. She ties this idea back to her childhood, when everyone had gardens, while younger generations today don’t have that same experience.  

Janice hopes to use her Rainy Day experience to share her wealth of knowledge with her neighbors. “You don’t know resources are in your community and what they are for.  Someone needs to. Many people are not homeowners at my age, and I have younger neighbors who help me. They can find out about these resources through me.”

Linda, another Rainy Day participant in the Baxter Neighborhood, first learned of Rainy Day through the mail and inquired what it was about with the Neighborhood Association. For Linda, this was “perfect timing” because her current toilet had a crack and needed replacement.  Linda shared that her experience has been going well. The plumber who installed the aerators and low-flow toilets was “very nice.” While Linda has been conscious about her water use in the past, she looks forward to seeing an even lower water bill in the future. Linda shares that she can already hear her toilet using less water. She thinks that Rainy Day would be beneficial to others in her community who don’t know these water-saving products exist.

WMEAC is looking forward to continuing partnering with the participating neighborhoods and connecting future participants with sustainable water-saving tools inside and out.

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