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Apr 07, 2016

Making Rainwater Legal

In WQP, we have often covered rain barrels and the many benefits they offer – they help reduce the impact of storm water runoff and help homeowners and business owners conserve drinking water by providing an alternate water source for non-potable uses like watering plants, washing cars and more.

But in some states, collecting and reusing the rainwater that falls on your property is illegal. Colorado is one of those states – but lawmakers are working to help make the benefits of rain barrels available to homeowners with House Bill 1005, which passed the state Senate on April 1.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the bill also was introduced in 2015, but did not make it through the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee due to concerns that if too much water was collected from rooftops, downstream farmers and ranchers would not have enough water to meet their needs. If passed, the bill would allow single-family homes and multi-family homes of up to four units to store up to 110 gal of rain from their rooftops, which could be reused only for outdoor purposes.

In the Gazette report, state Sen. Michael Merrifield, a supporter of the bill, said that many Coloradans already are using rain barrels, unaware that they are currently illegal. “In a state that is so desperate for water as Colorado, I think it’s valuable that people understand water law and the scarcity of water and how water can be used efficiently, how to conserve,” he said.

With so many states dealing with water shortages, it is key to ensure that both homeowners and lawmakers understand the conservation benefits of rain barrels so that they can balance those with the needs of water users across their states. A team effort – from homeowners to farmers to industry to state capitals – is needed to make an impact on water conservation and efficiency.

What are the laws concerns rain barrels and rainwater collection in your state? Do you believe they are well understood by the public? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, or email us at [email protected].