Gretchen Jacobs, YVSC Intern | July 8, 2021

This summer in the Yampa Valley has been undoubtedly a dry one. Historically low river flows and dry conditions are the results of low snowpack, high temperatures, a previously dry summer last year and low soil moisture. Already the Yampa Valley has experienced multiple wildfires due to these dry conditions. Now more than ever, there is a need for conserving the water we have. The City of Steamboat Springs 2020 Water Conservation Plan has a goal of 10% water savings by 2030. This is a goal that you can be a part of by using a rain barrel at home.

In 2016, it became legal in Colorado to harvest rain, allowing our community another great way to conserve water. Rain barrels by definition are any type of container used to collect water from a downspout. One thing to know about using rain barrels in Colorado is that you are allowed to have up to two barrels holding a maximum of 110 gallons of water. Rain barrels can only be installed in single-family homes or multi-family homes with four units or less, and the water must be used on the property it is collected from. In terms of the actual rain barrel, it is required that it has a sealable lid, mostly to protect the water from mosquitoes breeding as well as any other debris that may taint the water. It’s also important to know that water harvesting should be used outside on lawns, gardens, and plants, and you should never drink the water from your rain barrel and ensure your pets do not either. 

There are many benefits to using a rain barrel. Watering of lawns and outdoor plants account for 30% of treated water use currently in the City of Steamboat Springs. By using rain barrels, you could help reduce that number. It is also more cost-efficient and energy-efficient. By using the water you harvest, you can save on your household water bill. Finally, by using rain barrels, you are capturing stormwater runoff before it becomes contaminated and flows into the river.

According to the City of Steamboat Springs 2020 Water Conservation Plan, overall water conservation in our community will also have overwhelming benefits. Water conservation can reduce the need for new infrastructure allowing for funds to be allocated more efficiently. Being careful about water consumption will also improve river health because there will be less wastewater discharge. Overall, this all helps to reduce our carbon footprint through a reduction in chemicals and energy needed for water treatment and adapt to a changing climate. 

Rain barrels are a great way to conserve water. Encourage your family and friends to look into ways that they can conserve water and encourage them to educate themselves on the benefits of rain barrels. To learn more about water conservation click HERE.