New program sets out to prove it pays to conserve

Indianapolis

An EPA grant is giving homeowners who live in the Mapleton-Fall Creek and Mid North Neighborhoods an incentive to conserve water.

The residents can earn 'water currency' during a pilot program for their efforts to reduce further pollution in nearby Fall Creek, an important water source in Indianapolis.

"Not only do they know, but, occasionally, they can smell it," said Leigh Evans, Executive Director of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation. Evans lives and works in the area.

The approximately 15,000 homeowners can attend workshops and get hands-on training for native planting, rain gardens, and much more. The goal is to give them the skills to apply the water conservation efforts at home.

"We were explaining to 30 residents the difference between a native plant and a weed," said Evans.

Several neighborhoods groups have partnered to make the EPA grant a reality, and Butler University's Center for Urban Ecology is heading up the water currency portion of the program.

"Say you put a rain barrel in at your house, or you plant a tree in the neighborhood, or you dig a rain garden, all of these things actually improve water quality," said Tim Carter, Director of Butler University's Center for Urban Ecology.

The 'water currency' that is currently in the form of a paper voucher can be redeemed at participating businesses or non-profits like Fall Creek Gardens and Unleavened Bread Cafe.

"We want to teach people how to garden, and we want them to do it while using resources in a wise way," said Maggie Goeglein, Executive Director of Fall Creek Gardens.

Homeowners can exchange their water currency at Fall Creek Gardens for a plot rental where they can grow their our produce. 

Organizers are hopeful the pilot program will take off considering it will take years for Citizens Energy Group to tackle Indianapolis' more than 100-year-old combined sewer system that easily overflows and sends raw sewage into area waterways like Fall Creek.

"Not only are you benefiting yourself because you don't have to pay for that water, you prevent it from getting directly discharged into the stream or river or prevent it from getting into a sewer system that goes to a water treatment facility where it must be treated, and we pay for that too," said Carter.

For more information or if you would like to be a participating business, you are asked to email Mollie Louret at makechange.currency@gmail.com.

Additional information can also be found at the Mapleton-Fall Creek Community Development Corporation office.

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