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Friday, August 12, 2011

Colorado Water Law and The Right to Collect Rainwater

My last post about yesterday's big rain on the Cañon land reminded me that many people don't know about the astonishingly stupid rainwater harvesting* regulations that we have here.


This excellent synopsis from CSU Extension service describes the 5 criteria one must meet in order to legally collect rainwater. My comments are in italics.

Senate Bill 09-080, which was passed and signed during the 2009 legislative session, allows limited collection and use of precipitation for Colorado landowners. The changes apply only to residential properties that are supplied by a well (or could qualify for a well permit) (You folks who live in town and want to be responsible stewards of the precious gift that is rain, and also lower your water bill, cannot collect. At all. Ever. So why do they sell rainwater barrels at Home Depot, and why does Mother Earth New's Robin Griggs fail to revise her article about this subject?) 

Landowners will complete a permit application, supplied by the Division of Water Resources, that will provide notice of their intent to collect precipitation and a description of how they intend to do it.
To qualify for a permit, you must meet a minimum of the following criteria:
  • The property on which the collection takes place is residential property. (If you own a building housing your business, you have no right to the water falling on your roof. Of your own building. That you own.)
  • The landowner uses a well, or is legally entitled to a well for the water supply.
  • The well is permitted for domestic uses according to Section 37-92-602 or Section 37-90-105, C.R.S..  (If you own property that is 35 acres or larger, you can usually get a domestic and livestock well. Only one of these wells is allowed per parcel. The well may serve up to three single-family dwellings, irrigate one acre or less of lawn and garden, and provide water for domestic animals and livestock. This is different from a household well permit which says water can be used only inside the home. Water cannot be used to irrigate lawns, gardens, windbreaks, livestock, or any other outside use. That you own.)
  • There is no water supply available in the area from a municipality or water district. (If water is available from a local entity, apparently you are required to pay whatever they want to charge to bring it to your house. Even if you live in an area of wells and don't want their water service.)
  • The rainwater is collected only from the roof of the home.
  • The water is used only for those uses that are allowed by, and identified on, the well permit. (So if you have a household only well, and you are living within the restrictions of the terms of the permit, you are not allowed to be environmental responsible and collect water to say, water a vegetable garden. No, that would make you a law breaker.)
The nice flower photos are your reward for reading this boring diatribe. Thank you.

It's one of those things that makes you go, "Hmmm". Particularly since studies have shown that collecting rainwater does not reduce river and stream flow volumes.

*Rainwater harvesting is the process of intercepting storm-water runoff and putting it to beneficial use.

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