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Colorado Passes Bill Allowing Rain Barrels

On May 12, 2016, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law HB 1005, allowing for residential use of rain barrels to collect precipitation for non-potable, outdoor watering needs. Prior to this bill passing, Colorado allowed only well owners who had obtained a permit and participants of a Department of Natural Resources pilot program to use rain barrels—making it the only state that did not allow widespread residential use of rain barrels.

HB 1005 addresses the primary concerns against the widespread residential use of rain barrels—vector control and the impact on downsteam water users. On the vector control matter, the Department of Public Health and Environment is required to develop and publish best practices for preventing the spread of the disease carried by mosquitos. To prevent harm to other water users, the State Engineer and Department of Natural Resources are given the authority to curtail rain barrel use if it causes harm to senior water rights. The State Engineer is also required to publish information on the allowed use of rain barrels on the department website and to report to the legislature by March 1, 2019 and March 1, 2022 on whether downstream water users have been negatively impacted by the use of rain barrels.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Jessie Danielson (D–Wheat Ridge) and Representative Daneya Esgar (D–Pueblo). In arguing for this bill, Danielson cited a Colorado State University study, which held that downstream users would not be impacted by residential rain barrels.

“Over the summer, Colorado State University came out with research that confirms there would be no negative impact on downstream users—like agriculture and others. In fact, this bill will help cities use less drinking water on outdoor gardens. I grew up on a farm in Colorado, and as a farmer’s daughter, I can tell you that legalizing rain barrels just makes good Colorado common sense,” Danielson said.

Other provisions in the bill allows each residence up to two rain barrels with a combined capacity of 110 gallons, limits the use to single family residences and multi-family dwellings with no more than four units, and specifies that water collected can be used only for non-potable, outdoor purposes.

The bill is expected to create ongoing additional workload in state agencies, but no measureable increase in expenditures. Municipal water providers may see a drop in water demand and corresponding drop in revenue, but that may be offset by the need to purchase less water to meet demands.

HB 1005 went into effect on August 10, 2016.


Written by Marta L. Weismann