You Won’t Believe What Colorado Is About To Legalize
Colorado is mighty progressive on some issues, but it’s the only state in the country with a ban on residential rain barrels. Now, that ban may be on its way out.
In March, the state’s Democrat-controlled House almost unanimously advanced a bill striking down the state’s ban on residential rain barrels. Last week, the Republican-controlled state Senate followed suit by approving the bill in a 27-6 vote, sending it to the desk of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who has said he supports the measure.
Though that Senate vote took place on April Fools’ Day, this ban is no joke.
According to Reagan Waskom, chairman of the Colorado State University Water Center and director of the Colorado Water Institute, Colorado has long taken a “kind of archaic” approach to water laws, in part because of the state’s arid climate and in part because its namesake river plays a major role in providing water to much of the Southwest and Mexico.
“We can find ourselves in trouble pretty quickly with downstream states if they think we’ve expanded our [water] use or violated our compact agreements with them,” Waskom told The Huffington Post. “This is a built-in conservatism that years of interstate squabbles have taught us to do.”
It is for this reason that Colorado has had a complex water rights system in place for more than a century. Built on the principle of “first in time, first in right,” it is a “prior appropriations” system that identifies water rights holders and prioritizes water usage across the state.
That system has traditionally precluded the use of rainwater-collecting barrels. Supporters of the ban, like Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, had feared what residential rainwater collection would mean for water rights holders downstream.