Evidence of rain water harvesting has been found in ancient texts, inscriptions, and archaeological remains dating back thousands of years.  In Utah, the most familiar harvesting systems are reservoirs, and wildlife guzzlers that collect and store water from snow and rain. While harvesting rain water is not a new practice, it is one that is underused by homeowners.   This is partially due to a prior law prohibiting the collection and storage of rain water. But in 2010, Senate Bill 32 went into effect, allowing for the legal harvesting of rain water in Utah.

Cedar City averages around 5 ½” of rain during our six month growing season.  To put this into prospective, your lawn needs close to 30” during the same time frame.  A covered rain barrel connected to a downspout is an effective and inexpensive way to make the most of our infrequent rain events.  An average roof (estimated @ 1000 ft2) would yield roughly 3000 gallons over the course of the growing season.  This collected water is great for watering your yard and garden, but should not be used for human consumption.   Every rain barrel needs an overflow outlet and a place for water to go once the barrel is full. Directing overflow into a rain garden is one option.  Put simply, rain gardens are large shallow depressions within the landscape that collect overflow from a rain barrel, or runoff from a roof, driveway, or other hard surfaces.  These depressions are turned into attractive landscaped areas that work like a sponge and natural filter, allowing the rain water to slowly spread and soak into the ground.

We recently incorporate a rain garden into the Main Street Water-Wise Demonstration Garden.  You’re welcome to stop by and check it out anytime. The garden is located on Main Street, South of the Visitor Center and welcomes visitors seven days a week.

Happy Gardening!

Candace Schaible
USU Extension Horticulturist