Published on June 30th, 2009 | by Becky Striepe


Rainwater Harvesting Legalized in Colorado

Until this year, there were three Western states where it was illegal to have a rain barrel in your back yard: Washington, Utah, and Colorado. A change to local laws means we can scratch the latter off the list!

According to a Sunday New York Times article:

The two Colorado laws allow perhaps a quarter-million residents with private wells to begin rainwater harvesting, as well as the setting up of a pilot program for larger scale rain-catching.

Before this legislation passed, buying a rain barrel was a lot like visiting a head shop. You could purchase one, but make sure you don’t talk about what it’s for! While the old law was rarely enforced, folks can now purchase, set up, and use their rain barrels on the up and up.

Why Water Laws?
A commenter on a previous post here about water rights in the West explained:

The reason behind this is that some water right holders depend on the water from seasonal creeks that are only active for brief periods of the year (aka spring) and theoretically stopping the rain from entering the stream by “diverting” the water takes away water from the downstream rights holder.

But this is very nonsensical within city limits where everything is paved and gutters everywhere…

However, a 2007 study found that the law’s logic was a little faulty. After studying precipitation near the Denver area, researchers found that 97% of the water did not make it to streams. Most of it was taken up by plants or just evaporated.

I’m glad to see Colorado coming around! The same commenter from above mentioned that they were considering a similar change to the laws in Utah. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!



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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

  • http://www.business-strategies-etc.com Gail NIckel-Kailing

    Interesting that the State of Washington outlaws rain runoff collection because the City of Seattle sells rain barrels.

    That’s where we bought ours.

  • Matlucci

    Enviros should be against rainwater harvesting. Those who support it do not understand water rights laws. Allowing rainwater capture will open up new areas to development where a well or other water source was not available (e.g. for 35 acre ranchettes in the mountains). Same thing happened when exempt wells were approved. It will not reduce demand for water one bit, but rather cause more water use. In a system where every drop of water is owned, if one person does not use it it goes to the next in line. That line is so long that the water never gets left in the stream.

  • chris

    As long as everybody thinks that breading more humans is the thing to do, nothing will be accomplished to save the enviroment.

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