Rain barrel bill tabled in Colorado Senate with promised vote to come
March 30, 2016
For the second year, a rain barrel legalization bill was clogged in the Colorado Senate Agriculture Committee.
House Bill 1005 was created to allow people to collect rainwater — something limited with Colorado's current water laws.
But, just like last year, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, tabled the bill Thursday. Last year's attempt at legalizing rain barrels was never brought up again. But Sonnenberg said a vote can happen as early as March 30.
But if it does, Sonnenberg said his vote will be against the bill as it stands.
The biggest point of contention for him comes from the lack of ability to monitor the barrels, which would hurt junior water right holders. Junior water holders are those who have water rights, but — because of prior appropriation laws — are lower on the priority list from taking water sources.
Advocates for the bill said the barrels wouldn't take away enough water to hurt the water holders. Despite that, there isn't support for holding the rain barrel owners responsible for a possible lack of water.
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"If there isn't an impact, why would they be worried about a statue," Sonnenberg said.
Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water said the company isn't taking a stand on the bill. He however thinks the what if's are the biggest obstacle for the bill.
"I think it's a perception issue," he said.
Part of that comes from looking at the issue in worst-case scenarios. A study conducted by Colorado State University researchers looked to see how much rain barrel collection would take away from downstream. The study concluded that it would take high volumes of people collecting rain to actually take away from the downstream. Werner said the likelihood is, only some people would take advantage of the two 55-gallon barrel limit.
However, Sonnenberg said he saw flaws with the study, as the researchers who presented results contradicted what they said about runoff. Sonnenberg said, initially, there is no accountable rain runoff, and then later said the presenters said there was.
"The CSU study was a flawed study," Sonnenberg said. "I have lost confidence in the CSU water institute."
Since this year is the second time a legalization bill for rain barrel is making its way through the House Senate, Werner said the expanded time to examine the bill will help get a vote this year.
There are only four states with prior appropriation laws that have legalized rain barrels, and in Colorado, those who own wells are already able to collect rain water via rain barrels. ❖