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Two New Laws in Colorado Make Rain-Catching Legal

7/6/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: Colorado, rainwater catchment, landscape irrigation

For years, Natural Home has offered great solutions for catching and re-using rainwater—which is just a smart (almost no-brainer) thing to do. But in Colorado, where I live, following our great advice would have meant breaking the law—until now.  

For the first time in decades, Coloradoans can legally catch rainwater. Many states in the West, including Utah, Washington and Colorado, have had stringent water rights laws that made it illegal for homeowners to catch water runoff that fell from their roofs or gutters. Now two new laws in Colorado allow residents with private wells to harvest rainwater and will also set up a pilot program for larger-scale rain-catching. 

rain barrel
Collect rainwater runoff with a rain barrel. NH Archives. 

Water rights are a sensitive issue in my state. Colorado doesn’t import water from other states but is legally required to send its water to states downstream, making water a precious commodity. Previous laws against rainwater collection were enacted to make sure the public didn’t infringe on other users’ water rights. Some states, such as Arizona and New Mexico already allow rain catchment, and in Santa Fe, New Mexico, rainwater collecting for new homes and commercial buildings is mandatory. 

Colorado lawmakers were influenced to change the laws by a 2007 study indicating that 97 percent of the precipitation that fell in Douglas County, near Denver, either evaporated or was used by plants, meaning the rainwater never reached a stream and therefore didn’t infringe on other users’ water rights. 

Now, I’m pleased to see my neighbors moving their rain barrels from the backyard to the front yard. We’re all breathing a little easier, knowing we’re not doing anything illegal.

Is water-catching legal in your state? Do you use rain-catchment systems to conserve water? Tell me about it in the comment section.

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