NEW YORK — The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) distributed 60-gallon rain barrels, free of charge, to approximately 400 Staten Island homeowners. The rain barrels connect directly to a home’s downspout and collect and store the stormwater that falls on the rooftop. This water can then be used over time to water lawns and gardens. By collecting the stormwater that would otherwise run off into the street, the use of rain barrels helps mitigate roadway flooding and eases pressure on the city’s sewer system and treatment plants.

Rain barrels also help reduce homeowner’s water bills as watering lawns and gardens can account for up to 40 percent of an average household’s water use during the summer months. Since 2008, DEP has distributed more than 2,300 rain barrels.

DEP’s Rain Barrel Giveaway Program is part of New York City’s Green Infrastructure Plan. Launched by Mayor Bloomberg in September 2010, the Green Infrastructure Plan aims to capture stormwater before it ever enters the sewer system and thereby significantly reduce combined sewer overflows into local waterways. Over the next three years, DEP will invest $187 million in public and private funds on green infrastructure projects as well as other source controls such as rain barrels, and, by 2030, DEP plans to spend an estimated $2.4 billion to significantly reduce combined sewer overflows.

The rain barrel program also builds upon DEP’s efforts to conserve water as part of New York City’s Water for the Future Program, a $1.7 billion initiative to ensure clean, reliable, and safe drinking water for more than nine million New Yorkers for decades to come. As part of the Water for the Future Program, DEP will repair leaks in the Delaware Aqueduct that supplies roughly half of the city’s daily drinking water. In order to make repairs to the Aqueduct, the tunnel must be temporarily shut down between 2020 and 2021. Ahead of the planned shutdown, DEP aims to reduce citywide water consumption by 5 percent.

In addition to encouraging homeowners to conserve water, DEP recently announced a partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to install activation buttons on spray showers in 400 playgrounds around the city that will save 1.5 million gallons of water a day during the summer months. DEP is also installing new, high efficiency fixtures in the bathrooms of 500 city schools to reduce water consumption by nearly 4 million gallons each school day.

Participation in DEP’s Rain Barrel Giveaway Program is by invitation only. DEP mails invitations to register for the Rain Barrel Program to single-family homeowners and several giveaway events will be scheduled over the next three years.