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Two New Laws in Colorado Make Rain-Catching Legal

7/6/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: rainwater, Colorado

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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T Phillips
4/20/2011 10:18:50 AM
The info in this article is a bit misleading and incomplete. This quote is from The Colorado Division of Water Resources:"Senate Bill 09-080, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor during the 2009 legislative session, will allow certain property owners who rely on certain types of wells for their water supply, limited collection and use of precipitation, only if: 1. The property on which the collection takes place is residential property; and 2. The landowner uses a well, or is legally entitled to a well, for the water supply; and 3. The well is permitted for domestic uses according to Section 37-92-602, C.R.S., or Section 37-90-105, C.R.S. (generally, this means the permit number will be five or six digits with no “-F” suffix at the end); and 4. There is no water supply available in the area from a municipality or water district; and 5. The rainwater is collected only from the roof of a building that is used primarily as a residence; and 6. The water is used only for those uses that are allowed by, and identified on, the well permit. If you do not meet, at a minimum, ALL of the above criteria, then the change in the law does not affect you and the current restrictions on collecting rainwater still apply. This law was effective on July 1, 2009."

3/11/2011 12:51:52 PM
The governor of North Carolina, Bev Perdue has declared all water in the state to belong to the state and has discussed taxing homeowners who have a well a water tax, furthermore the Governor has stated that all land below 7 inched from the surface belongs to the state and the state owns all mineral, water and rights to what ever is found 7 inched or lower on ones property.

joey raab
3/11/2011 12:19:14 PM
i dont care if its legal or not, if it runs off my roof it belongs to me. If someone else claims the rights to it, then they can also claim the responsibility to maintain my roof!

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