Rain catchment legalized " backcountry huts rejoice
May 11, 2009
A high-elevation hut at the Berthoud Pass Second Creek drainage will have the benefit of domestic water, thanks to a new state law the Grand Huts Associations has been seeing through since 2007.
Andy Miller of Fraser, Grand Huts project manager, said he was pleased Gov. Bill Ritter passed the legislation on April 22 ” legislation that will allow the collection of rainwater for household purposes, fire protection, watering of livestock and irrigation of gardens and lawns.
Previous Colorado water law made it illegal to capture rooftop precipitation.
“Basically, in Colorado, you had to have a water right,” Miller said. “Even taking snow off your roof, you had to have a water right.”
Miller was bracing himself for a long and expensive journey ahead in Colorado’s water court to gain rights for a cistern system at the Broome Hut, which eventually will replace the existing Second Creek A-frame as part of a future Grand County hut-to-hut system.
Without a way to get a well truck up to the site at 11,322 feet, the Huts Association was without any other way to plumb water to the future cabin.
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“The 10th Mountain (hut-to-hut) system faces the same dilemma,” Miller said.
The new legislation, SB 80, should help ranchers build cisterns where wells would be too expensive, and could help residents such as those who live on the south side of Grand Lake where digging a well is impossible, Miller said.
The law applies only to residents who already have a well permit or who could obtain a well permit. Therefore, the rainwater collected does not create a deficit to the statewide water supply.
The new bill is based on 2007 failed legislation sponsored by Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan. The former bill was restructured, separated from a controversial piece of water legislation, and ultimately reintroduced by Looper and Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus.
With the goal of implementing a cistern at Second Creek, Miller consulted a water attorney, then upon discovering Looper’s 2007 bill, he assembled a team of experts to help reintroduce the idea to the state assembly.
A Denver water engineer, Janet Williams of Leonard Rice Engineers, became instrumental in the Huts Association’s effort, according to Miller. “She knew the rules of the game and put all the players together.”
At the Capitol, legislative drafter Kate Meyer, Republican Sen. Al White of Craig (formerly of Winter Park) and Republican Rep. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs also helped in cracking the state’s cistern code.
The 10th Mountain Division Huts Association and the Summit Huts Association pitched in financial help.
Getting a law passed “is not a process that a normal human being can understand, for sure,” Miller said. “White helped us get down all the right avenues.”
Baumgardner was key in getting the legislation to pass the House, he said.
It’s estimated the new law will benefit 20 to 30 existing huts in Colorado and any structure where people have had past difficulty implementing a well.
Those who plan to collect roof rainwater are expected to apply to the state. For applicants who already have a well, the “form will require minimal processing,” according to the SB 80 fiscal notes. For those who do not have a well, the state conducts a full evaluation of the applicant’s property. The Department of Natural Resources expects to process 100 rooftop precipitation collection permits annually at $28 each.