Students at Metropolitan State University of Denver have spent the last six weeks designing rain barrels.

"We worked with our industrial design department here at MSU Denver to design a better rain barrel," said Tom Cech, Director of One World, One Water at MSU Denver. "Current rain barrels are not very functional. They warp, they leak, they don't eliminate mosquito breeding and so forth and they're pretty ugly looking."

The Intermediate Industrial design class divided up into several teams to compete to design the best rain barrel. On Wednesday the groups presented their final designs to a panel of water conservation experts.

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"I was blown away because there are a wide variety of options," said Cech. "Some can actually physically move the water in a cart to a different part of your yard. One is battery operated so you can just use a 100 foot hose to spray the water wherever you like, one was a functioning, kind of a rain garden, for your plants right at the point where the rain barrel was located. That was really unique."

Wendy Hughes and Ezra Depree's Aqua Box took home first place.

"We followed the IKEA model of flat packing things," said Wendy Hughes. "It makes it easier to clean, easier to move, easier to set up, and easy to produce."

The Aqua box could be taken apart for easy winter storage or be used as storage.
The Aqua box could be taken apart for easy winter storage or be used as storage.

As you might have guessed from the name, their design isn't a barrel, but a box. It's designed to look like wicker furniture and would come in several colors.

It can easily be taken apart and stacked for easy winter storage, or used to store garden tools or other items when not in use. They estimate it would cost about $50.

"We wanted to go for the cost reward type of thing, like he was saying you only save a little on your water bill so it comes down to how much are you willing to actually spend to save only very little and see that return much further down the road," said Ezra Depree. "So we wanted something that was not only aesthetic and functional but was still very cost effective."

They won $150 for the design. There is an option for a patent and potential to eventually have their design manufactured and sold.

All of the students' design will be on display this June at the Watershed Conference at the Denver Botanic Gardens.