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Storm clears on Colorado rain-barrel bill

Measure passes through state House with widespread support
Collecting rain water in barrels would become legal in Colorado under a bill that overwhelmingly passed the state House on Tuesday. The bill now heads to the Senate.

DENVER – The Colorado House on Tuesday gave overwhelming bipartisan approval to a bill that would allow Coloradans to collect rain water that falls on their roofs.

The House passed the bill 61-3.

The “no” votes came from Republican Reps. Justin Everett of Littleton, Clarice Navarro of Pueblo and Jim Wilson of Salida.

Lawmakers amended the legislation to quell a handful of Republican objections over water rights.

The first amendment states that using a rain barrel is not a water right.

The second amendment would require the state engineer to evaluate the use of rain barrels, and whether there is any impact to water rights across the state.

Passage of the bill with such widespread support marks monumental progress for the legislation. A similar bill died in the last days of the legislative session last year over an impasse in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“They just want the ability to use a rain barrel to collect a little water to water their tomatoes,” Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, said of her legislation, which she co-sponsored with Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo.

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.

House Bill 1005 now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, has previously objected to the measure. He chairs the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, where the bill was assigned last year and delayed in committee over objections from Sonnenberg.

The concern is with 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.

A study by Colorado State University in September, however, stated that allowing 100 gallons of rainwater storage per household would not decrease surface runoff by any detectable amount on a typical lot.

With the amendments added this week, and the momentum behind the bill, it has its best chance of passing through the Legislature this year.

Colorado is the only state in the nation to prohibit the practice.

“The people of Colorado have spoken and their elected officials have listened,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “Citizens in our state want the senseless ban on rain barrels to be lifted so they can use this conservation tool to water their lawns and gardens.”

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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