The Utah Rivers Council has partnered with 15 Utah municipalities for the tenth year of its RainHarvest program, which provides Utah citizens with the opportunity to purchase subsidized rain barrels to collect water for outdoor use.

The program aims to incentivize water conservation in Utah by helping citizens purchase rain barrels, which participants can install below rain gutter downspouts to collect rainwater. The recycled-plastic barrels are made by American company Rain Water Solutions and normally cost more than $150, but are available to residents of partnering municipalities for $55 and to all Utah residents for $83.

Nikki Wyman, water education and public outreach coordinator for Sandy City, said the program is an easy way for people to start practicing conservation and sustainability.

“I think we can make it through together if we all learn that conservation isn’t really scary,” Wyman said. “It’s something we can do, and rain barrels are a fantastic way to start that journey.”

The communities participating in this year’s event are Cottonwood Heights, Herriman, Lehi, Millcreek, Mountain Regional Water, Murray, North Ogden, Ogden City, Orem, Park City, Sandy, Salt Lake County, Summit County, Taylorsville and Weber County Unincorporated Area.

Utah residents whose communities are not offering a subsidy can purchase discounted barrels at www.rainbarrelprogram.org/urc. Residents of participating municipalities must fill out their community’s subsidy form, found at the same website, in order to receive a link for purchase of the subsidized barrels. All who purchase a barrel must register for a local pickup, which will occur the first week of May.

Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, said the program reduces the demand on municipal water supplies and helps residents lower their water bills. Although water collected in the barrels is non-potable, it can be used to water gardens and landscaping, which represent a considerable portion of most residents’ water usage.

The RainHarvest program has distributed nearly 11,000 barrels to Utahns over the past nine years and estimates that over 550,000 gallons of water is saved every time it rains enough to fill the 50-gallon barrels.

Ian Harris, associate planner and sustainability analyst for the city of Cottonwood Heights, said his city has been adopting water conservation landscaping standards, and the RainHarvest program helps citizens meet those standards.

“We’ve seen really strong interest (in this program) from residents in past years,” Harris said. “It’s really a great, affordable way for our residents to to do their individual part for the greater good and for the environment while also being able to save a good amount of money on water usage.”

Frankel added that an additional benefit of the barrels is that it improves an area’s water quality. Urban water runoff from storms tends to collect pollutants from roadways and deposit them in local waterways, and collecting rainwater keeps it off the surface and prevents chemical runoff from negatively affecting local water quality.

William Szwarc, water quality and conservation coordinator for Herriman City, said the barrels help citizens to be more aware of water use.

“The rain barrels are an effective way to capture water that can be used in many ways, and they also serve as a visual reminder of the importance of water conservation,” Szwarc said. “Even as our population is growing very quickly, we see that our per capita water use is decreasing. We are grateful to be able to participate in this program, and our residents definitely take full advantage of it.”

Several city representatives at a press conference announcing the program noted that this is just one of many ways residents can conserve natural resources and lower their water bills. Many citizens are switching to water-efficient fixtures and appliances, and several cities have updated their landscaping requirements or are encouraging “flip your strip” programs, which rebate homeowners for converting their park strips to be water efficient.

“This is just another small step we can take, knowing that those small steps can have some big effects,” Sean Wilkinson, the director of Weber County’s Community Development Department, said.