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A Senate panel on Wednesday advanced a measure that would expand property owners' ability to legally gather storm water for watering gardens and other "beneficial uses."

Currently Utahns filling cisterns or barrels with water running off their roof risk a citation if they do not first obtain approval from the state engineer.

HB36 would allow a property owner to capture rainwater in two 100-gallon barrels without any prior approvals, sponsor Rep. Jim Nielson told the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee. The bill, which already cleared the House on a unanimous vote, would also allow storm-water collection in above-ground cisterns up to 2,500 gallons with state engineer approval. Current law requires cisterns for this use be underground.

Some lawmakers were concerned the measure could enable big property owners to divert run-off into a pond or the construction of a cabin on a lot where there was no water source other than rain. But Nielson assured colleagues the bill in no way confers a water right.

"This is about protecting private property rights," said Nielsen, a Bountiful Republican. He said neither the Utah Farm Bureau nor the state engineer, the official who oversees the allocation of water rights, oppose his measure.

—Brian Maffly

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