Rain barrel use in Colorado now legal

page 18 rain barrelA new state law in Colorado, signed by Governor John Hickenlooper on May 12, now allows for the limited use of rain barrels for the purpose of rainwater harvesting. The signed bill became effective Aug. 10, 2016.

Colorado previously was the only state to forbid the use of rain barrels. Rainwater harvesting for stormwater management and individual residential use was viewed as conflicting with Colorado’s water law doctrine of prior appropriation. Of concern was the view that widespread use of rainwater harvesting at any scale would restrict water flows and effect water rights of downstream users. As a result, Colorado became the only state in the country where rainwater harvesting was considered illegal.


New law

The new law allows for a total of two rain barrels with a maximum storage capacity of 416 L (110 gal). The law includes a statement that rain barrel use is not considered a water right and is not intended to encroach upon the prior appropriation doctrine. The law further restricts the use of rain barrels to residential and/or multifamily residences. The law does not allow the use of larger rainwater harvesting systems.

The law also includes a provision that allows the Colorado Department of Natural Resources state engineer to restrict rain barrel use should it be determined that their use effects (or will effect) downstream senor water rights. The state engineer also is required to provide two reports to the Agriculture Committee of Colorado General Assembly by March 1, 2019, and March 1, 2022, regarding whether the use of small-scale residential harvesting systems has caused any discernable injury to downstream water rights.

Proponents denoted the common sense approach of the new law. However, they faced substantial challenges in prior years as the proposed legislation stalled in two prior general assembly sessions.

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2 Responses to “Rain barrel use in Colorado now legal”

  1. Bdubbs
    October 6, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    The world is a rain barrel, If the use of the barrels isn’t quantifiable because of restrictions on size and number of barrels, why worry about it? You would have to assume through populated areas x number of people would even want these barrels. To go out and purchase barrels, then set up for use, is some kind of hippie logic. Sure, they want to do good, smell good and feel good about themselves. Who doesn’t? The aftermath is probably far worse, little jimmy cutting himself on a rusty old barrel trying to imitate a WWF wrestling move on his friend, and then finding out the “friendly” barrel is carrying a evil foe, necrotitis fasciitis, It rears its ugly head for lunch. Its just a downward spiral. Plastic barrels, yes i have a story for that, if you like to hear about fish dying out in the open seas. You get the point. In summation, if you live in a remote area in CO i think Hickenlooper has done a great thing for those souls that may now have to depend on these barrels for a source water/life. I think the Waterboy said it best “Now that’s what I call high quality H2O”

  2. Stephen
    October 6, 2016 at 11:47 pm #

    Wow!!! – Coming from Australia I am staggered that this was even a thing. Maybe I am missing something but where did rural properties not connected to town water supplies get their water from if they couldn’t install a water tank? Does everybody have to have a bore or get water trucked in?

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