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Herriman Journal

Fifteen Utah cities offer subsidized rain barrels to help save water

Apr 09, 2024 10:26AM ● By Bailey Chism

IvyRain barrels lined up to be distributed to residents to catch rain water. (Photo credit Utah Rivers Council)

Utah is the second driest state, and people use the second most amount of water per person in the United States. 

According to 2020 data by the Utah Division of Water Resources, Utahns use 169 gallons of water each day. If commercial and industrial use is added in, that jumps to 256 gallons of water every day. 

Fifteen of Utah’s city leaders are hoping to make water conservation a priority in Northern Utah including Millcreek, Cottonwood Heights, Murray, Sandy, Herriman and Taylorsville. 

They announced the return of a rain harvesting program March 12 for their residents that will incentivize water conservation. This is the 10th year this program will be operating and continues to get more of Utah’s cities and residents involved. 

The RainHarvest program gives residents the opportunity to catch rainwater from their gutters into a 50-gallon barrel. 

“The RainHarvest program has become very popular with our residents, and we are excited to participate once again,” said Justun Edwards, Director of Public Works for Herriman City. “Rain barrels are an effective way to capture water that can be used in many ways, but they also act as a visual reminder of the importance of water conservation.”  

The 15 cities partnered up with the Utah Rivers Council to distribute rain barrels to their residents that will catch rainwater from their house gutters. The barrels hold up to 50 gallons of water and can be reused outdoors. 

In a press release, the Utah Rivers Council said these cities are stepping forward as the future of the Great Salt Lake has generated record interests. 

According to a study done at Brigham Young University, the Great Salt Lake is in danger. With the disappearance of water flow to the lake, low water levels could cause damage to Utah’s health, environment and economy. 

The study says excessive water use is destroying the Great Salt Lake. The lake has lost 73% of its water and the drop has accelerated since 2020. 

According to an article by the Utah Division of Water Resources, as of late February, Utah’s snowpack is above normal for most regions and water levels are expected to rise. 

Water levels as March progresses are encouraging. City leaders want to keep it that way and encourage their residents to step in and help before it goes away. 

“We are living through a wet water cycle at this moment, which has improved our water storage and groundwater levels immensely,” said Aron Frisk, the water superintendent for the Murray City Water Department. “Continuing conservation efforts like the RainHarvest program should still be practiced because the next dry cycle is just around the corner.” 

Utah has had six multiyear statewide droughts since 1895, and state officials are always preparing for the next one. 

Almost 11,000 barrels have been purchased over the last nine years, which means every time it rains enough to fill the barrel, 550,000 gallons of water can be saved during each storm. The Utah Rivers Council said between April and October, Salt Lake City could collect between 400 and 525 million gallons of water on residential buildings alone. Using the rain barrels on commercial properties could increase that even more. 

Capturing rainwater can improve water quality by preventing urban runoff from flowing over streets and gutters, washing pollutants into streams, and eventually into the Great Salt Lake. 

The Utah Rivers Council says collecting rainwater is a valuable water quality benefit because runoff is the No. 1 pollutant in waterways nationally. 

The 1972 Clean Water Act means the greatest threat to Utah’s water bodies does not come from industrial sources, but small things that add up over time. Driving a car down the highway leaves behind tiny pieces of rubber, and those get swept into lakes and rivers when it rains. 

“So this is just another small step that we can take knowing that those small steps can have some big effects,” said Sean Wilkinson, the Weber County director of community development. 

Rain harvesting has been legal in Utah since 2010. Utah residents are able to collect up to 2,500 gallons of rainwater on their property as long as the collectors register with the Utah Division of Water Rights. The cities involved encourage their residents to collect the rainwater and use it for outdoor activities instead of city water. 

Nikki Wyman, the Sandy City water education and public outreach coordinator, said the RainHarvest program gives people the right mindset to continue conserving water. She said the program makes it easy for people to learn behaviors of contract, probation and sustainability. 

Frisk said their total annual water production has been trending down since 2000 and has dramatically decreased since 2020. He said it’s because the population is being educated and they’re more conscious of water use and water conservation due to being involved in the RainHarvest program. 

The cities are offering rain barrels at a discounted price to encourage their residents to take part in the program and collect rainwater to help stretch Utah’s water supply in case of another drought. 

Some cities are offering their residents a price of $55 per barrel, while other cities offer theirs at a price of $83. The barrels will all be distributed to those who want one during the first week of May in each participating county. 

The Utah Rivers Council is hoping to distribute about 3,000 barrels to residents throughout Northern Utah and said households are not limited to just one barrel. 

Several cities are taking water conservation to the next level and implementing other water conservation programs throughout their counties. That includes things like water efficient landscapes, new city ordinances, water efficient appliances and fixtures, education programs for kids and much more. 

The RainHarvest barrels are available to buy online at the Utah Rivers Council website at λ



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