by Sherri Akers

The keyword is “We”… the collaboration between the Mar Vista community and LA Stormwater set the bar for what is possible when the community gives up the ‘why don’t they…’ attitude and works with the city towards a greener LA!

The LA Rainwater Harvesting Program was an incredible example of what can be achieved when city government and grassroots community volunteers band together.

Mar Vista was thrilled to be selected to receive free rain barrels. We have a community that shares a passionate focus on conservation. The challenge wasn’t how to inspire people to want rain barrels, but rather how to get the word out most effectively so that we captured as many as possible!

Our stormwater runs directly out to Santa Monica Bay – we are painfully aware of the damage being done as our families are surfing and swimming in that water. This was our chance to make a difference – by capturing that ‘first flush’ of rain that hits our roofs and washes the toxic residue from plane and automobile exhaust directly into the bay. The added bonus was that the water we capture will be used in our gardens.

LA Stormwater truly partnered with us and this turned into a community based project where neighbors heard from neighbors. The launch was accelerated in order to start the campaign at the Wise Water Use Expo, which created a buzz. They loaned us a rain barrel which we lugged to our MVCC Green Booth at the Mar Vista Farmers Market every Sunday for several months. It was a show stopper! It was impossible for people to pass by without asking why we had a barrel. Every Sunday we had a new list of 25 to 50 neighbors eager to sign up for the program.

You just can’t underestimate the power of word of mouth within a community. We zone out from information overload. The conventional approach of bill inserts and news articles often gets lost in the noise. We have found that the Farmers Market has become our ‘town square’ and allowed us to become a small town.

The results? Mar Vista overwhelmingly captured the largest number of rain barrels in the program. Neighbors who missed out on the program are buying rain barrels from local, affordable resources like Rainbud. Many of us are adding more rain barrels – one family is up to five!

We will celebrate Earth Day this year by opening 79 drought resistant and edible gardens for the Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase on April 25th – a free, self guided tour of gardens that are both water conserving and beautiful. And we are thrilled to say that a third of them have rain barrels!

Sherri Akers has a passion for learning how to conserve water and energy and sharing it with others. As Co-Chair of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) Green Committee, she has the good fortune of putting that passion into action. See what the MVCC is up to by visiting their blog:

Click here to view all of the articles in Issue 10 of the LA Stormwater newsletter.