A bill that makes it clear that household rain barrels are legal in Colorado is on the way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
The measure, which allows up to two rain barrels with a combined capacity of 110 gallons per household, is to take effect on Aug. 10.
Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters this week that he supported the bill.
A similar bill died on the Senate calendarlast year, after passing out of the House.
This year, Democrats made compromises that Republicans wanted: acknowledging state water law and giving the state engineer’s office regulatory authority. House Bill 1005passed the state Senate 27-6 Friday after getting out of the state Houseon Feb. 29.
The compromises were supported by former opponents, such as the Colorado Farm Bureau, who were concerned about the impact on downstream users who hold expensive water rights.
“As a farmer’s daughter, I’m proud to have helped pass this common-sense water-conservation measure,” said Rep. Jessie Danielson, a Democrat from Wheat Ridge who was one of the bill’s sponsors.
Conservation groups hope the legislation encourages Coloradans to capture and use runoff from their rooftops on their lawns and gardens to help people recognize that water is a precious resource in this arid state, compared to the amount they would have used from their garden hoses, otherwise.
“This is an exciting day for Coloradans,” Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said in a statement Friday. “It’s a sure sign that water policy in the West is beginning to change, as legislators from both sides of the aisle recognize the need to increase flexibility in our water policies.
“Now more than ever we need innovative tools to prepare us for a future characterized by a growing population and water challenges from climate change such as decreased snowpack and extreme drought.”
Said Drew Beckwith, the water policy manager for Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates: “We’re grateful that our legislature is willing to embrace innovative water solutions for our future. We encourage Gov. Hickenlooper to sign this bill, since we need an increased conservation ethic around the state to ensure a reliable water supply for our future.”
Technically, there is no specific law in Colorado that bans rain barrels. State law requires a water right to store any amount of water for any amount of time, which might seem to prohibit rain barrels. Anyone who brought a case, however, would have to prove the amount of water they were entitled to was diminished by rain barrels.
A deputy state water engineer told a Senate committee last week that amount would be hard to measure. Rain barrels put relatively the same water back into the ground — in a garden or lawn — as water from a downspout.