Fort Smith residents were able to learn more about a potential means to reduce water bills during a meeting Thursday.
Believe in Fort Smith and River Valley Economic Development Council hosted an economic development town hall meeting at Prince Drug Store & Pocket Park in Fort Smith to discuss the possibility of Fort Smith residents using properly installed rain gardens. The goal of rain gardens is to collect and filter rainwater before it gets into the storm drainage system, a previous Times Record article states.
Guests at Thursday's event included Jeremy Prater, Urban Agriculture coordinator for the Sebastian County Conservation District, Terry Tremwel, professor of Sustainability in Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Joe Irwin, a retired civil engineer who was with the Arkansas Department of Transportation and Robyn Dawson, principal of Spradling Elementary School. Arkansas state Rep. George McGill served as the moderator. A news release described the event as an opportunity to learn about potential cost-saving benefits to Fort Smith by using voluntarily installed rain gardens to reduce the burden on storm water drains and save money.
One of the questions McGill asked the four-person panel was how to get people engaged in understanding the impact they can make on water bills, sewer maintenance, storm drainage maintenance and other things on an individual basis if they do something like installing rain gardens. Prater said a major part is educating people about rain gardens. He suggested getting information about rain gardens out with the city of Fort Smith's support.
The panel also fielded questions from the audience. One of the questions asked was if rain gardens could save money and if Prater could put a dollar figure on it. While Prater said he did not know the specifics on that, he ran some numbers earlier.
"So say you've got your 300 square foot rain garden for, like, a residential size area," Prater said. "They can be however big you want them to be, but 300 square feet in a typical yard is not going to impact your yard that much. That will save about 200 gallons per year given our rainfall amounts. We've got about 47 to 48 inches of rain per year on average in Fort Smith, so that's quite a lot of volume that is right now going down the drain. If we can get enough households to start capturing 200 gallons a year, that adds up, and I'm sure there's a dollar amount that the wastewater management folks can attach to that."