From the department of “there ought to be a better law,” there really might be this year when it comes to making sense of desertlike Colorado’s convoluted water regulations.
Pray for rain and House Bill 1005 to let you use it.
Among much hoopla by state lawmakers a few years ago, state water law changed to scrap one of the most inane idea ever made law: rainwater running off your roof belongs to the state and you can’t touch it. The change was supposed to allow residents to trap and store the rainwater that falls on their property and use it for irrigation — sort of.
Actually, the change in law allowed very few people to take the water that rains onto their property and use it in limited ways. More than likely, you weren’t one of them. If you live in Aurora, you definitely weren’t.
Why not? Because the state’s water law, going back to when Colorado became a state, is about as an arcane and confusing pack of rules as were ever written. The laws were created to ensure one farmer was unable to force another out of business by affecting down-river rights. At the time the laws were created, no one dreamed a city the size of Aurora would, or could, exist so far from a river. No one dreamed that millions of Midwesterners and Europeans would flock to the Front Range and try to recreate their own lush homes, complete with giant emerald lawns, that now drink more water than our state’s forefathers dreamed could be stored and managed.
And one of those laws addresses rainwater. It doesn’t belong to you. Yet.
Under Colorado law, rainwater and snow belongs to whoever owns the water that you run out of your kitchen faucet. For those of you in Aurora, that means the city. And the city’s water department — which has bent over backward the past several years to get residents to do everything they can to reduce the amount of water we pour onto our yards — hasn’t wanted you to touch the water that runs off your roof.
Actually, it’s even more confusing than that. City water officials say they think it’s OK for you to “direct” the water than runs off your roof into places in the yard that need the water, say grass, trees and gardens. They just haven’t wanted you to direct that water into a rain barrel, the very thing that made life as we know it possible on the Front Range way back when.
None of this makes any sense, especially common sense. If it’s OK for residents to run out and buy gutter spouts that make sure every drop of rain runs onto lawns, flowers and trees, who cares if residents run it into a barrel first and then use it when it’s not raining, instead of turning on the tap?
Efforts almost every year at the state Capitol to allow residential rain barrels have been scuttled by statewide water officials, wringing their hands over what makes the rest of the country laugh at us.
This year, HB 1005 seeks to replace nonsense with common sense and allow homeowners to have two rain barrels to store rooftop rainwater runoff to use on their lawns or gardens.
Doing this is such a good idea, that local city councils, including Aurora, should push their own water officials and state lawmakers to permit such collection, or, better yet, simply authorize rain barrels right now.
In the big picture of things, residential rainwater collection might be only a drop in the bucket of what it will take to ensure adequate water for Aurora and the Front Range, but only good things can come from giving Aurora residents their own buckets to collect their own raindrops.