Salt Lake City wants to help residents harvest rain

A changing Utah climate means less snow and more rain.  For a state that is dependent on its winter snowpack for its year-around water supply, new ways to conserve and store water will be needed as the population grows.

Salt Lake City leaders want to encourage residents to look at how they conserve water on their properties through the new Rain Barrel Initiative.  

The program, announced by Mayor Ralph Becker earlier in the month, will provide 60-gallon rain barrels for purchase to residents that participate in the City’s free Water Check Program (a check of an automated sprinkler system’s efficiency).  The rain barrels will be sold at cost ($68) on a first-come, first-served basis through the Salt Lake City Public Utilities office.

“The barrels provide a low cost method to capture rain water for landscape use,” said Becker.  “We’ve never had water to waste, this program helps provide both the new tools and new knowledge to assist every Salt Lake City resident and public utility customers outside of the City to make responsible water use choices.”

Rain barrels typically capture rainwater run off from household rooftops.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, lawns and gardens account for nearly 40 percent household water use during the summer.  During those same summer months, a typical 55-gallon rain barrel can save homeowners as much as 1,300 gallons of water.

Harvested rain water is naturally “soft water” and therefore free of chlorine, lime or calcium and can be used to clean windows and wash cars.

The City’s Rain Barrel Initiative follows the spring launch of the RainHarvest program by the Utah Rivers Council.  Under the RainHarvest program, residents can purchase 50-gallon rain barrels for $50 a piece.

According to the Utah Rivers Council, Utahns consume the most water per person in the US.   A 2010 report by the U.S. Geological Survey found that on average, Utahns consume 248 gallons per person each day.

The same report found that while nationally, many states are consuming less water per capita, in Utah water usage has increased.  Utah consumed nearly as much water as Washington and Georgia, states with significantly larger populations.

“One thing we want to do with the rain barrel program after we do this initial run is look to see if we can use a rain barrel initiative to incentivize and increase participation in the Water Check Program, because it does have such measurable and meaningful water savings over a long period of time,” said Stephanie Duer, the water conservation manager for the City.

To purchase a rain barrel, eligible households should contact Stephanie Duer, Water Conservation Manager, at 801-483-6860 or by emailing stephanie.duer@slcgov.com.

For more information regarding the Rain Barrel Initiative, Water Check Program or other water conservation initiatives, visit www.slcgov.com/waterconservation

Salt Lake City Public Utilities suggests the following recommendations for using less water:
· Adjust sprinkler controllers to reflect the season and weather.
· Check sprinkler systems for broken or misaligned spray heads.
· Check indoor faucets and fixtures for leaks and repair promptly.
· Sign up for a free sprinkler check by calling 1-877-728-3420.
· Visit http://slcgardenwise.com/ for water-saving tips and landscape information.

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Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.