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Rainwater Harvesting

by Susan Simons

    Colorado has joined New Mexico and Arizona in making rainwater collection legal.  Senate Bill 09-080 allows rooftop collection systems for individual landowners if….

    The collection must be on residential property with a well permitted for domestic use where no water supply comes from a municipality or water district.  The water can only be collected from the roof and can only be for the uses identified on the well permit.

    A separate bill, HB 09-1129, allows developers to apply to become one of ten statewide pilot projects that harvest rainwater for use in a sub-division.

    In New Mexico, rainwater collecting is now a requirement for new homes in places like Santa Fe.  In Arizona, big cities like Tucson are also experimenting with catching rainwater.  Here in Colorado, rainwater harvesting has been illegal because of a complicated water rights system that has been the custom and the law since territorial days.

    But a study in Douglas County in 2007 helped convince Colorado lawmakers that limited collecting of rainwater would not deprive owners of water rights.  According to a article in the New York Times by Kirk Johnson of Durango, the study found that “…in an average year, 97 percent of the precipitation that fell in Douglas County, near Denver, never got anywhere near a stream.  The water evaporated or was used by plants.”

    Under the new laws, persons who plan to harvest rainwater must fill out a form which will be available on the website of the Colorado Division  of Water Resources after July 1.  Landowners who already have a well will not have to pay any additional fee.  Landowners applying for a new well permit will pay a small fee to collect rainwater.  Individuals who want to collect rainwater but don’t want a well will also pay a fee.

    Check the Colorado Dept, of Water Resources at for updates.