Effective July 1, 2009 the Colorado Division of Water Resources is now overseeing two new laws (online summary) allowing the restricted use of precipitation by landowners. The first bill allows individuals to harvest rainwater and is covered by the new law (SB 09-080). Another bill (HB 09-1129) allows for ten pilot projects consisting of residential and mixed-use projects varying in size and scope which would be used to determine impacts of widespread rainwater catchment.
The requirements for the individual homeowner permit (SB 09-080) are:
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.
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, and
6. The water is used only for those uses that are allowed by, and identified on, the well permit.
Note that you must already have a well, a well permit, or be entitled to a well permit. This does not apply to urban dwellers nor does it allow you to use this water for anything other than interior domestic uses. So no watering your garden or filling your hot tub!
If you are interested in reading about a real-life permit holder you can find a recent Denver Post article article here highlighting the Kayner Residence in Colorado and follow them on their blog here.
The idea of catching rainwater in Colorado is important both due to the fact that most of the state is a high desert coupled with complex water rights based on prior appropriation. This was not a topic to be discussed about five years ago during the worst drought in recent history. It is surprising after three relatively wet winters that the State of Colorado finally made a small step forward. Congratulations and welcome to the club of states that allows you to use the water that falls on your land!
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About the Author: Jeff Ruppert is a practicing engineer, owner of Odisea, a design and engineering firm, builder of bale homes and from time-to-time a computer geek. He enjoys sharing information with others which is the main impetus for creating buildearth.org.