There are several reasons rain barrels are illegal (for the most part) in Colorado. The main issue is water rights. Did you know that, as a homeowner, you don’t have the right to use water run off from your roof unless there is a well on your property? There are several other reasons regulators are against rain barrel usage in Colorado. Rain barrel advocates have some strong arguments against legislator logic. Presented here are the arguments for and against making rain barrels legal for every homeowner in Colorado.
Water rights are the main issue cited for making rain barrels illegal in Colorado. Colorado has some very stringent water rights rules. By catching and saving rain water, it’s felt that homeowners are inadvertently stealing the water from it’s rightful owners. That is to say, the owners of reservoirs and streams that the water would have naturally migrated to. An exception is made for homes where there are wells installed. In that case, the water rights would belong to the homeowner.
People who advocate the use of rain barrels point out that the rainwater they store in barrels for later use will eventually migrate to those places anyway. In fact, they argue, rain water will serve more than one purpose on the way to those reservoirs and streams. Therefore, it’s put to better use, environmentally. In other words, they believe that rain barrels in Colorado can benefit both the homeowner and the water rights owner, without shorting either of precious water.
In regards to sanitation, rain barrels are illegal in Colorado for a very different reason. Simply put, it’s felt that rain water is not sanitary enough to re-use in the home, yard or garden. Regulators cite Colorado’s infrequent rainfall as the culprit. Since Colorado gets little rain, bacteria from animal and bird dropping as well as other build up accumulates on the roof and in gutters over time. When it does rain, that bacteria is washed into rain barrels for use by homeowners. There is concern that this contaminated water might cause health issues.
Properly installed rain barrels have a safeguard against bacterial contamination. They are designed to either dump off the first several gallons of water or keep it sectioned off, where it won’t be used. So, in essence, bacteria is not a concern for rain barrels which are properly installed. Colorado rain barrel advocates also argue that the bacteria from the roof would have ended up in the water supply without the rain barrel as part of the process. In other words, bacteria becomes a moot point where rain barrels are concerned.
Debris and Mosquitoes
Rain Barrels are illegal in Colorado (in part) due to concerns over debris and mosquitoes. Regulators fear that dead plant matter from the roof might contaminate rain barrel water that is left sitting too long.
Mosquitoes can also breed in standing water. This becomes an issue due to the many diseases spread by biting insects. Rain barrel advocates say this is yet another non-issue, when it comes to making rain barrels legal in Colorado
Properly designed rain barrels involve a filter or feed which keeps dead leaf matter and other roof debris out of rain water. They also involve a screen to keep mosquitoes out. Rain barrel advocates admit there will be abuses and not everyone will use a proper rain barrel system. However, they feel that this is no different than any other abuse of the system. Those who do the right thing should not be punished due to the careless actions of a few individuals.