DENVER – After a slippery ride, lawmakers on Monday advanced a measure that would allow Coloradans to collect rain water that falls on their roofs.
The House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee backed House Bill 1005 by a vote of 10-2, after a more than two-hour hearing. It now heads to the full House for consideration.
The measure is written similar to last year’s bill, which died on the second-to-last day of the session after it failed to receive a Senate floor vote despite a last-minute effort to garner support.
The bill would allow people to capture rain from their roof in up to two 55-gallon barrels for use in their garden or on their lawn.
Sponsors of the bill are hopeful that they can muster enough support to drive it through the legislative process, especially following a study by Colorado State University in September that stated that allowing 100 gallons of rainwater storage per household would not decrease surface runoff by any detectable amount on a typical lot.
“Instead of it going into your windowsill, or possibly a sidewalk, you could use it where you see fit ... on your tomato plants and your flower garden,” said Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, a co-sponsor of the bill.
Critics raise concerns about eroding the state’s prior appropriations system, in which water rights are granted to the first person to take water from an aquifer or river, despite residential proximity.
In an effort to address the water rights controversy, some rural lawmakers pushed an amendment that would have allowed the state engineer to intervene if complaints over water rights arise. But the amendment was defeated.
“It was mentioned that a lot of the opposition would go away if ... the state engineer had the authority to intervene or had some oversight if necessary. ... To me, this amendment actually does that. ... I just think it would take a lot of the angst about this bill away,” said Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, who voted for the bill despite the amendment failing.
Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, raised concerns with Colorado being a water provider among 18 states that have a prior appropriations system. He voted against the measure.
“We’re not even talking the same thing here,” Coram told supporters of the bill. “We’re a headwater state. We’re the rooftop. We run in every direction.”
State water officials did not take a formal position on the legislation. But James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said the effort could help with a narrative on water conservation in the West.
“The concept of residential rainwater harvesting aligns with the CWCB’s philosophy of promotion of education and water stewardship at a local level ...” Eklund said.