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Planet CLE: Making fresh water go further

Painted rain barrels are inspiring neighbors to make water preservation a priority.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — From dried up lakes and riverbeds in the Southeast -- to water restrictions in states like Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island -- this summer has served up a reminder: Fresh water cannot be taken for granted, no matter where you live. 

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"One of my missions is to help protect that and stop waste of water."

Linda Zolten Wood is an artist whose inspiration comes from principles of conservation. 

She started seeing the benefits of rain barrels after a trip to India, where she witnessed, firsthand, obstacles to getting clean water. 

Getting others to join her in conservation became a passion, so Zolten Wood created the Collinwood Painted Rain Barrel project.

"The city of Cleveland, for about 10 years, gave away free residential 55 gallon rain barrels from upcycled food grade barrels. And they were really ugly normally," she said. 

As a muralist, Zolten Wood turned her rain barrel into a functioning piece of art. And soon she helped others do the same. 

"It worked out beautifully and I want to help people love the idea of using a rain barrel every day."

Consider this -- collecting roof runoff in rain barrels reduces the amount of water that flows from your property -- and puts it to use in a variety of ways, for free. 

"Free water is good. First of all, it's fun, free water. We planted a garden. We planted trees. There is no guilt in watering, you know, capturing the rain water has been, we've been doing this for centuries. How common sense is that?" she emphasized. 

Owner to three rain barrels today at her home, Linda finds that through art and painting, other rain barrel owners become more invested in what they can do! 

"It doesn't hurt the water table. It's such a small, tiny little drop in the bucket. Everyone should capture their rainwater. Win-win free water. And then your plants get untreated water. The city water has fluoride and chlorine good for us, but not for the plants. So win-win win, win free water, lower bills," she said. 

On Saturday, September 17th, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is holding its Clean Water Fest, at the wastewater treatment plant in Cuyahoga Heights. 3News is a sponsor and Jason Mikell will be there starting at 12 noon, where he will give away one of Linda Zolten Wood's painted rain barrels. The event is free, fun and family friendly. Learn more at the neorsd.org.

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