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Utah drought crisis: Rain barrels can help save water this summer

A rain gutter and downspout are pictured on a home in Herriman on Tuesday. Some Utah residents can purchase discounted barrels through April 24.

A rain gutter and downspout are pictured on a home in Herriman on Tuesday. Some Utah residents can purchase discounted barrels through April 24. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Cities across the Wasatch Front are offering discounted rain barrels in an effort to incentivize water conservation and recycling, the Utah Rivers Council announced on Tuesday.

The 50-gallon barrels collect runoff from roofs and gutters, which can then be used for watering lawns and gardens. They're sold as part of the ongoing RainHarvest Utah project, a collaboration between the Utah Rivers Council and 11 municipalities and counties.

"When we kicked off the program seven years ago, (we found) that it teaches people what saving water means and how much water we're actually using," Zach Frankel, executive director for Utah Rivers Council said in a virtual press conference on Tuesday. "Because when you collect 50 gallons ... then use it on your landscape you realize how much water we as homeowners are using outside on our homes every day."

Since its inception, the program has helped Utahns save millions of gallons of water, Frankel said, and continued use of barrels could reduce demand for water by 10% to 20%. While that won't entirely solve the problem, every little bit counts, especially as Utah faces the worst drought in 1,200 years.

"We have to realize the scale is just really daunting ... but we have to realize there is something we can do and we can't be paralyzed," said Lehi sustainability and recovery director Todd Munger.

He called the program a "great opportunity" to help city residents be involved at a "grassroots level" to help conserve water.

Runoff water flows down Little Cottonwood Creek from the Wasatch Mountains in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Tuesday, March 15, 2022.
Runoff water flows down Little Cottonwood Creek from the Wasatch Mountains in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Water conservation is a "complex and interconnected puzzle," but the program is an important investment in a straightforward, "bottom-up" approach, said Samantha DeSeelhorst, associate planner and sustainability analyst for Cottonwood Heights.

Lisa Hoffman, assistant general manager of Mountain Regional Water in Summit County, said rain barrels provide "tangible, hands-on experience" and can be used as an object lesson to help children and families understand the need for conservation.

"I think getting kids involved in water conservation and water resources at such a young age is such a great lesson to learn and ... help them kind of be the stewards of the future for this really precious resource," Hoffman said.

Through April 24, residents of participating municipalities can order rain barrels at a subsidized price of $55, down from a retail price of around $143, according to Frankel. Residents outside of participation boundaries can still order barrels, but for the higher price of $83.

The barrels will be available for pickup at a handful of locations in early May.

Here's a full list of participating municipalities:

  • Salt Lake County
  • Millcreek
  • Cottonwood Heights
  • Murray
  • Taylorsville
  • Herriman
  • Lehi
  • Orem
  • Park City
  • Summit County
  • Customers of Mountain Regional Water

A 50-gallon Ivy rain barrel used to recycle runoff rainwater for watering lawns and gardens. Some Utah residents can purchase discounted barrels through April 24.
A 50-gallon Ivy rain barrel used to recycle runoff rainwater for watering lawns and gardens. Some Utah residents can purchase discounted barrels through April 24. (Photo: Utah River Council)

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