A rebate program is offering water-saving rain barrels at little or no cost to Santa Monica residents and businesses as city officials continue their efforts to rein in water usage amid a prolonged statewide drought.

The city is givinglocals a financial incentive to conserve using the rainbarrels, which collect water from downspouts and store it for future use.

Environmental activists laud rain barrels and other water harvesting equipment because they conserve vital resources, reduce the burden on storm drain systems and help consumers save money on water bills.

And although the program has been in place for several years, this year’s rebate offer of up to $200 comes as the city announces penalties for water-wasting residents and businesses that will take effect in August.

“It’s really vital because of the drought,” said Gina Garcia, co-executive director of Sustainable Works, a locally based environmental education nonprofit group. “The city has asked everyone to reduce water usage by 20 percent, and its goal is to be water self-sufficient by 2020. These barrels allow you to capture all the rainwater that would go into runoff and use water that you wouldn’t normally have.”

Santa Monica averages about 12.6 inches of precipitation per year, according to the Western Regional Climate Center. The average Santa Monican used 134 gallons of water each day in 2013, according to the city Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

People interested in the rebate program canbuy tanks and diverter kits and file for rebates within 60 days.

There will be a limited number of barrels available for sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Santa Monica College parking lot (1744 Pearl St.). Barrel buyers will be able to discuss irrigation and conservation with on-site experts from Waterwise Now and the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

The barrels are likely tobe free after the city rebate, although larger receptacles are more expensive. The rebates may also cover some or all of associated fees for installation and additional equipment.

The city also offers rebates on water-efficient landscape features, washing machines and toilets to encourage conservation.

For more information, visit www.sustainableSM.org or call the city’s sustainability office at (310) 458-2213.

Contact Jeff Goodman by phone at 310-573-8351, via email at jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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