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Colorado’s Measure to Allow Rain Barrels Fails Again

 Colorado’s Measure to Allow Rain Barrels Fails Again

Colorado’s measure to allow rain barrels fails…again.

Colorado is the only state in the nation with a ban on backyard rain barrels. Colorado’s Measure to Allow Rain Barrels Fails Again. However, under the new bill HB1259, which cleared the Colorado House last month on a 45-20 vote, Colorado would allow homeowners the use of two 55-gallon barrels to collect rainwater, but only for use on their gardens and lawn. Allowing citizens the use of rain barrels on their property for the use of water trickling down their roof, for the use of their gardens/lawns seems like a pretty legitimate idea. Unfortunately, the state Senate voted on May 5, 2015 to reject the bill and delay its journey to the governor’s desk before the conclusion of the lawmakers work for the year. Why you ask? According to the Colorado Division of Water Resources website: “Colorado water law declares that the state of Colorado claims the right to all moisture in the atmosphere that falls within its borders and that ‘said moisture is declared to be the property of the people of this state, dedicated to their use pursuant’ to the Colorado constitution.  As a result, in much of the state, it is illegal to divert rainwater falling on your property expressly for a certain use unless you have a very old water rights or during occasional periods when there is a surplus of water in the river system.  This is especially true in the urban, suburban, and rural areas along the Front Range.  This system of water allocation plays an important role in protecting the owners of senior water rights that are entitled to appropriate the full amount of their decreed water rights, particularly when there is not enough to satisfy them and parties whose water right is junior to them.” What this basically means is collecting water from your property is illegal because it belongs to other downstream users. Because someone else already owns the right to that water, rainwater capture is not legal for most Colorado households. Wow, does anyone else see something wrong with this? Water from the sky, on your property, is owned by someone else already. That seems a little farfetched to me, especially considering you can only capture water from your rooftops with only two 55 gallon barrels. How much water gets evaporated on the pavement, or sits stagnant in pools, sometimes becoming unsuitable for use? How many years has Colorado been flip flopped back and forth between flooding and devastating droughts? How much water would we actually conserve if residents were allowed to collect rainwater, from their rooftops in barrels, and use it for their gardens and lawns? Wouldn’t it make sense to use rainwater from God’s sky and put it to good use, instead of using public water and well water, already in short demand in drought seasons? That’s exactly the case some Senators are making and have been trying to make for years. According to the Water Information Program website, Sen. Michael Merrifield, a Democrat candidate of Manitou Springs believes the bill would benefit Colorado in two major ways. “One, it allows for a way of delaying water from flowing downstream too soon and acts as a kind of reservoir system. Two, it helps Coloradans realize just how precious water is in the state, and helps teach them to be more judicious in how they use it.” However the opposition (mainly Republicans) said Colorado likely would be sued by neighboring states, all of which allow rainwater barrels. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican candidate of Sterling, and chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee that reviewed the bill, delayed a vote on it over a disagreement on some of its provisions. Many Republicans are saying the raise on this ban could potentially hurt water rights holders, such as farmers to whom they say the rainwater belongs. Here in Weld County where we have substantial Agricultural interests, Republican Seat holders Steve Humphrey and Lori Saine supported the bill. So which farmers are these other seats representing? According to the Greeley Tribune, Democrat Representative Dave Young said: “The data we were given indicates that 97 percent of the water that comes off of roof tops never actually makes its way into the basins, I thought it made good sense.” Young said he would need to see data that showed how rain barrels negatively affect someone’s prior appropriation before he sees the bill as harmful to water rights owners.  LaSalle farmer Harry Strohauer said the bill seems like common sense to him. Letting residents collect rainwater in insignificant amounts means they can put it to good use and avoid using other water sources. “I don’t see a downside to that,” he said. It’s unclear as to why HB1259 has not been passed and appropriately regulated to help Colorado resist the destructive affects in drought seasons and teach Coloradans about the importance of water usage especially when the initial votes were 45-20 last month. Obviously the Colorado House believes this is a good idea, enough to have a majority vote to push it through, so how then does this bill keep getting delayed? I don’t see how legalizing and property managing rain barrel water conservation could be more detrimental to Colorado than times when there is no water to be conserved. Are our state leaders more concerned with other state’s needs than our own? How can we really know if this bill is potentially harmful to farmers if it’s never been tested? Couldn’t there be some sort of trial period for this bill so we can see the data that would show if rain barrels negatively affect someone’s appropriation? What are your thoughts? We would love to know! Email us at:

OrrLandRE@OrrLand.com


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