With Amendments, Rain Barrel Bill Initially Passes House

Colorado is on the road to becoming the final state in the country to legalize rain barrels, after Democrats reached an agreement on Monday with several Republicans who opposed previous versions of the measure.

"It is a water right and what you have done with this, you have protected that water right," said Representative Don Coram (R-Montrose). He had voted against a rain barrel bill last year. Now he said he can back it.

Other Republicans are also on board with HB 1005.

"I've gotten a lot of emails asking for this bill, even though it may seem a trivial issue, it's not to somebody who is very cognizant of Colorado water law," said Representative Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale). "And I would not have voted for it without the amendments."

Representative Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) sponsored one of the amendments.  It clarifies that having a rain barrel is not a water right. It would also give the state engineer the ability to curtail rain barrel usage.

Another amendment would require the state engineer to write a report to the House and Senate Agriculture committees if rain barrels are found to negatively impact downstream water users.

The potential impact to downstream users had been a major point of disagreement and the reason why a similar bi-partisan rain barrel measure failed on the final day of the 2015 legislative session. Over the summer, an interim committee of lawmakers studied the issue and water experts from Colorado State University modeled the potential impact. They found that rain barrels would not impact downstream users. But opponents who disagreed with those findings said they are pleased new safeguards have been added bill.   

"We now have a path for injured parties," said Representative Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan).

Colorado is the only state in the country where it is still illegal to capture rainwater for use at a later time. The measure would allow people a collection capacity of up to 110 gallons from water that falls off their roof.

"The people out there in our communities, they want this. They want the ability to use a rain barrel to collect a little water to water their tomato plants. It's pretty straightforward, it's pretty simple," said one of the main sponsors, Representative Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge).

After the measure initially passed the House, Danielson jokingly called out, "Free the rain barrel."

Editor's Note: The piece originally said, "The measure would allow people to collect up to 110 gallons each year from water that falls off their roof."  The measure actually allows for rain barrels to have a total capacity of 110 gallons, not a yearly collection of 110 gallons.  The text above has been changed to reflect the correction.