Hang’Em High for….rain barrels?

A technologically advanced rain barrel, as captured by Jason Vance on Flickr. Thanks for the Creative Commons photo!

We all know that outdated legislation can often be one of the largest barriers change. Up until 2009, in the state of Colorado it was illegal to have a rain barrel and still is illegal for a majority of its residents. They would probably not hang you for it and it was mostly unenforced but it still had an effect on how infrastructure in that state could be designed, particularly for large developments. You couldn’t bring a development application which included a rainwater collection system no matter what the planned use for that water.

The reason rain barrels were and still are in most circumstances illegal is due to the strict laws surrounding water rights. Under Colorado law, rain is the property of the state from the moment it hit your roof, lawn, blacktop, etc. This meant that by having a rain barrel you were preventing that water from going to its rightful owner and were in effect, stealing from the state.

In 2009, Colorado implemented a pilot program to make rain barrels legal. However this only applies in extremely limited circumstances. The collection can only occur in residential housing and only those that have well permits and then only in accordance with the well permit. For example if your well permit says that you can only use your well for “household uses,” then you cannot use your rain barrel to water your garden. So good for Colorado for starting to move in the right direction but I think we can all agree that they could afford to move a bit faster!

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One Response to “Hang’Em High for….rain barrels?”

  1. Vanessa said:

    Mar 11, 10 at 1:28 pm

    Water rights policy fail indeed!

    This seems like a classic example of how a noble principle (rainwater is a public good, and therefore belongs to the state) can become absurd legislation in practice (residents cannot collect rain to water their gardens). Good to hear that it’s on the road to being changed.