Colorado may end its unique ban on rain barrels
The Associated Press
DENVER — Colorado’s only-in-the-nation ban on backyard rain barrels is getting a new look from state lawmakers.
The state House gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill allowing homeowners to use up to two 55-gallon rain barrels. “This puts the water user in the mindframe of preservation,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge.
Colorado’s rain-barrel ban is little known and widely flouted, with rain barrels for sale at many home-gardening stores and commonly used by home gardeners. But the barrels technically violate Colorado water law, which says that people don’t own the water that runs on or through their property. They can use the water, but they can’t keep it.
Sponsors of the rain-barrel bill say the barrels don’t violate water law as long as homeowners are required to use the water outdoors on their own property. Homeowners aren’t taking the water, just holding onto it for a short time.
“Right now we’re making Coloradans criminals” for using the barrels, said another supporter, Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono.
But the measure sparked a spirited opposition from other Republicans, who warned the change violates Colorado’s complicated water law.
Colorado is a major supplier of water to the American Southwest, which relies on runoff from the Rocky Mountain snows. The slightest changes to water policy in Colorado can have major consequences downstream.
“Everything is not always as simple as it seems,” warned Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose.
Coram held up a coffee mug belonging to Saine and asked whether he should be allowed to keep it just because he wants it.
“You can never own the water,” Coram said. “It’s not your water; it belongs to the people of Colorado.”
The bill faces one more formal vote before heading to the Senate.
Colorado’s law banning rain barrels was amended in 2009 to allow rain-barrel use by people with their own wells, but the change didn’t apply to municipal water users.
House Bill 1259: http://bit.ly/1I60dGx
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