Colorado Okays Rain Barrels, But The Battle Has Just Begun

April 13, 2016

The fight about use of rain barrels to collect water has been taking place in Colorado for years. 

Many residents of Colorado believe they have the right to catch and collect as much rainwater as they please, while others on the agricultural side say that collecting rainwater is stealing it from its rightful owners. Throughout the parched landscape of the West, this battle has played out time and time again, but Colorado has been the only state left that had a complete ban on rain barrels. That ban is about to be lifted, however, according to

Coloradans will now be allowed to have two 55-gallon barrels per residential property. While it is a start, it is only a matter of time before people want to be allowed to collect more rain without worrying about being fined. But as Douglas Kenney, Director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado said, this isn’t a fight about water barrels; it’s about changing the water rights regime.

Almost 90 percent of Colorado’s water is used by agriculture, and some worry allowing people to catch as much rainwater as they want will be detrimental to the state’s agricultural industry. As cities and urban areas continue to grow, many farmers are urban centers will hold too much sway over dictating how the region’s scare water will be used.

Meanwhile, other Western states have not only legalized rain barrels, they have incentivized them. In Tucson rainwater catchment is required for all new commercial projects and New Mexico offers its own incentives for any residents who take advantage of their ability to collect rainwater.

While the fight is a long way from ending, this is at least a step in the right directionAs Kenney said, “If every little reform is going to be that big of a fight, then we have problems.” 

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