DENVER (CBS4)– Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law on Thursday that allows for the collection of rainwater. The issue has been surprisingly controversial over the years as several attempts have failed in the state Legislature.
The issue became a battle over property rights, water in Colorado is the property of those downstream. It’s been illegal for more than a century to collect rain before it hits the ground.
“We just want to make sure we’re not the only state in the union where this is illegal. I think that’s why it gained so much national attention, even international attention,” said Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Democrat representing Pueblo.
The new law allows residents to collect and store up to 110 gallons of rainwater as long as you put it back in the ground on your property.
“We thought this was just a good Colorado common sense measure,” said Rep. Jessie Danielson, a Democrat representing Wheat Ridge. “You could take water from the roof, collect it in a barrel and water your tomato plants. Seems straight forward, right? But it wasn’t.”
Danielson’s father is a farmer in Weld County. She said lawmakers initially met resistance from ranchers who worried that allowing people to store water for use when it’s dry would mean less water and runoff downstream.
“We did come to an agreement, one that assures that agriculture and other water users across the state will not have any injury,” said Danielson.
The Colorado Farm Bureau supported the measure. Other supporters say the bill is about conservation and education about the state’s most precious natural resource.
“As we move into the implementation of Colorado’s water plan we know that conservation is the cheapest, most effective approach we can do,” said Hickenlooper.
Esgar was one of the first to put the new law into practice, “My wife actually purchased me a rain barrel, although I won’t say it’s been filled yet.”
Sponsors of the bill struck a compromise with farmers and ranchers, adding a provision to the bill that says if there’s any proof rain barrels are hurting downstream users, the state engineer can curtail the usage of them.