Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Committee Chair(s)

Phillip S. Waite


Phillip S. Waite


Keith Christensen


Kelly Kopp


Although most of the earth is covered in water, a very limited amount of that water is fresh water, which is essential to our survival. Therefore, it is imperative that we do all that is possible to conserve and protect our extremely limited water resources, especially in arid regions such as the American West. While there are many ways and means to protecting and preserving our water resources, this thesis focuses on the strategy of rainwater harvesting (RWH) as it is done throughout the state of Utah. RWH is defined as taking the precipitation that falls on our built structures and putting it to good use when it would often otherwise end up in gutters, pipes, and storm drains to be processed and/or disposed of at a distant location. RWH systems consist of several different components including a catchment area (usually, but not always, a rooftop), gutters, a place for storage, and some way of future dispersal and use of the collected water. There are numerous documented benefits to RWH.

Historically, RWH has not been allowed in states—such as Utah—that follow the doctrine of prior appropriation, which strongly defends the case for water rights and affirms that senior water rights should not be infringed upon. According to the law, when someone practiced RWH they were infringing on the water rights of others. However, in 2010, the Utah State Legislature modified these long-standing laws to allow residents of Utah to legally harvest up to 2,500 gallons at a time without fear of infringement on others’ water rights. Since then, many Utahans have adopted RWH. However, the number of Utah residents who are practicing RWH is still a tiny percentage of the entire Utah population.

This research included surveying self-identified rainwater harvesters throughout Utah and sought to discover and understand their motivations for adopting the practice. This information has the potential to assist planners, water districts, water managers, cities, state agencies, and legislators in persuading others throughout the state to also adopt the practice. It was found that an emergency supply of water and concern for the environment are the most important motivators for Utah rainwater harvesters. Unsurprisingly, financial savings also had a significant influence on harvesters and their decision to practice RWH, although they spent considerably less on their RWH systems than is typically spent in other states and countries.

A secondary aspect of the research was to examine Utah State Senate Bill 32, the current law in Utah concerning RWH. It was found that the current laws are written in a restrictive manner and should be changed and adjusted in order for a greater percentage of the Utah population to be motivated to adopt RWH.