Sustaining Water program offers education, rain barrels

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council staff members Tim Sullivan, left, Madison Muxworthy and Ryan Messinger passed out some 50 rain barrel kits on May 19 at Howelsen Hill as part of a group buy through the Sustaining Water program.
Yampa Valley Sustainability Council/Courtesy photo

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 10:45 a.m. on Friday, June 3, to reflect the current laws pertaining to rain barrels in Colorado.

Drought-tolerant plant sales, rain barrel group pricing, inspirational yard signs and educational events are all part of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s Sustaining Water program this summer helping to inform the Steamboat Springs community about the value of water and water conservation.

Established in May 2021, Sustaining Water builds upon the City of Steamboat Springs’ 2020 Water Conservation Plan with the goal of reducing per household water use by 10% by 2030. Sustaining Water is led by YVSC, but done in partnership with the City of Steamboat Springs and Mount Werner Water & Sanitation District, with additional financial support from the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation in Steamboat.

Outdoor water usage accounts for 30% of water used within the city and Mount Werner Water district, so improving water conservation within landscapes is an important strategy, said Madison Muxworthy, YVSC soil moisture, water and snow program manager.

New this summer, Sustaining Water yard signs are available for local residential or business owners who take actions to conserve water and want to share their efforts to help inspire their neighbors. The free signs are available by sending a photograph of a water-conserving yard or garden to or learn more online at

Qualifying measures to post a yard sign include using a rain barrel, planting native or drought-tolerant species, mulching, improving irrigation efficiency, letting grass go dormant, applying xeriscape design, adhering to the community watering schedule, replacing or reducing lawn turf, or building a rain garden using a design that captures rainfall.

The 2020 Water Conservation Plan works to preserve the health of Fish Creek and the Yampa River and protect drinking water supplies while reducing the carbon footprint of the Yampa Valley.

“Water supply stressors such as population growth, climate change, a Colorado River Compact call and wildfire in the Fish Creek Basin could limit the ability of the city and district to reliably provide clean drinking water into the foreseeable future if conservation measures are not enacted,” according to the city plan.

New this summer, home and business owners who are conserving water in their gardens, yards or landscapes can request a Sustaining Water sign to help inspire their neighbors.
Yampa Valley Sustainability Council/Courtesy image

Local water conservation education complements the current statewide Water ’22 campaign that encourages Colorado residents to learn and implement 22 ways to save 22 gallons of water every day in 2022. The Water ’22 campaign, found online at, is spearheaded by Denver nonprofit Water Education Colorado, and Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District is a local sponsor.

Next up for the Sustaining Water program is the Spring Plant Benefit sale set for 2-4 p.m. on Friday, June 3, and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at Yampa River Botanic Park. The sale will feature perennials appropriate for mountain regions including pollinator-friendly, native, and specialty Alpine plants. Educators including Routt County Master Gardeners will be on-hand to help attendees make the best selections for local yards and to learn how to incorporate climate-appropriate planting into local gardens and landscapes to lessen water demand.

A second drought-tolerant plant sale will take place 10 a.m.-3 p.m. June 11 at Mica Gardenscapes Plant Sale at 101 W. Main St. in Oak Creek.

Sustaining Water’s rain barrel group event sold out to 50 customers. The 55-gallon rain barrel kits are $75, and a second group order is in the works, Muxworthy said.

Colorado rain barrel facts

In August 2016, House Bill 1005 ended the longtime ban on residential rain barrels. The rules are now as follows:

– Single-family households and multi-family households with four or fewer units are allowed to use rain barrels.

– Households may have 2 rain barrels with a combined storage of 110 gallons or less.

– Any container may be used to collect water from a rooftop downspout, so long as it has a sealable lid.

– Rainwater may be used to irrigate outdoor lawns, plants or gardens.

“As we adapt to a drier and warmer Yampa Valley climate, a fun, yet impactful, at-home water conservation strategy is using a rain barrel,” Muxworthy said. “They lessen demand for treated water, can save you money on your water bill and provide an opportunity to store water for your landscaping and garden to be used in dry times.”

Other steps toward the 10% water saving goal by 2030 include the outdoor watering schedule adopted by the city and mimicked by multiple neighborhoods in Routt County that limits outdoor watering to three scheduled days per week. The city also maintains a Report Water Waste system at

Other water conservation measures include rebates for replacing older, high-water-use appliances. Rebates are available for both city and Mount Werner Water customers for replacement of inefficient toilets, dishwashers and washing machines.

Mount Werner Water customers also are eligible for rebates for irrigation retrofits for rain sensors, high efficiency spray heads or nozzles, and weather-based smart controllers as well as xeriscaping that replaces existing irrigated turf with native drought-tolerant plants or non-irrigated xeriscape garden.

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