Rain Barrels Banned

A law in Colorado Springs prohibiting rain barrels because the rain belongs to the municipal utility is high on the list of the most absurd I’ve ever heard about. My daughter, who has a friend who lives in the city, told me about it, and at first I really thought she was joking. She said she was not, but I still had a hard time wrapping my mind around such a bizarre law. Then I did an Internet search and this is what I found in an article that was published in 2009. I have not found anything more recent about this, but it does appear from what R. Scott Rappold said in the article in The Gazette, the law is still in place, despite efforts to get it changed.

Here is part of the article:

In Colorado, it’s illegal for people to collect rainfall, one of the more bizarre quirks of the state’s labyrinthine water laws. The water that falls on lawns belongs to downstream water-rights owners. 

But attitudes toward collecting rainfall for watering lawns are changing, and two recent pieces of legislation, including one signed by Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday , make it easier for people to use rain barrels. Such water collection is considered environmentally friendly and encouraged in many states.

If you live in the city, don’t install a barrel under your gutter spout just yet. The legislation lets residents on wells collect rain and establishes 10 pilot projects for new developments. Residents on municipal water still can’t legally collect rain, and water suppliers are leery of legislation that would let them.

“All the water was spoken for here in the Arkansas Basin 100 years ago or more,” said Kevin Lusk, water supply engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities. “If the water falls as rain, that’s water that was going to get to the stream system, and somebody already has dibs on it, and if somebody intercepts that, it’s the same as stealing.”

State Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, a primary sponsor of both bills, decided to push the issue after hearing last year from a resident upset about not being able to set up a rain barrel.

If city governments and utilities want to do something for a long-term solution to water shortages, I’m sure there are more sensible solutions than this one. 

I have a rain barrel that collects the water from my gutters, and I have big pails for the water that comes off the roof of my barn. But plenty of other water runs off my property in a storm, going into the stream system that feeds into the major water supplies in East Texas. The 100 gallons or so that I collect to water my garden hardly makes a dent in what ends up down the road.

For those of you who do not live in Colorado Springs, or Utah where there is a similar ban on rain barrels, you can install one for yourself. Not only does it save on your water bill to water plants and gardens with collected rainwater, it is better for the plants. If you are interested in trying one, there are all kinds available, and my search for images turned up hundreds. Mine is not nearly as fancy or pretty as those manufactured for the purpose, but out here in the country a 50 gallon heavy trash can serves the purpose. Although I really would like something prettier. Maybe I can get my artistic daughter to paint on mine.

12 thoughts on “Rain Barrels Banned”

  1. Hi Maryann — This law makes me crazy and has ever since I moved to Colorado. I cannot understand why rain that falls onto my yard and garden is legal, but if I want to reserve a little for other uses like indoor house plants or washing my hair, it’s illegal.

  2. I love the idea of rain barrels and those were attractive ones. I’d love to have several as there are some rain storms that dump in bucket loads. We also have a well and that would help there too, now if I could just convince my hubby!

  3. Yolanda, keep talking to your husband about it. Even the little I collect in my barrel and buckets goes a long way toward watering my outside plants.

    Patricia, I had such a hard time accepting that the water company says all the rain that comes down belongs to them. Are people fined for what their gardens soak up before the water runs into the creeks and rivers? LOL

  4. Wow, that’s nuts. At first, I though the law might have something to do with limiting the amount of standing water for mosquito control purposes. We have several rain barrels, and they’ve been overflowing this year, but even with all the rain we’ve had this year, it only takes a couple hot sunny days for our gardens to be yelling for a drink of water.

    If you’re interested, a new post goes up on my blog tomorrow, but Friday’s post was about your state.

  5. When I first started reading this post I thought your were kidding – that the ‘collecting rain water is illegal’ was the set up for some joke. I can’t imagine such a thing.

  6. that is one of those things that does not make any sense… laws are meant to protect us, not benefit someone. now if you talk the government… which used to stand for “we the people”… sorry sort of off topic.

    with your rain barrel my first thought was spiders getting inside and drinking them. i was happy to see you have it for your garden.

  7. Welcome Ainaa. I’m so glad you found my blog interesting. I love your name.

    LD,I’m still shaking my head. I wish it was a joke.

    Jeremy, I’m right there with you when it comes to government. This absurdity with the rain collection is just one example of government taking too much control. But you’re right. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.

  8. Susan, I loved your post about Texas. Talk about absurd laws. LOL And I did once visit the cockroach museum in Plano. I lived there and my kids were interested. It was weird. Glad the guy moved to Arizona.

  9. I would think one could use the airspace doctrine? In 1946 the Supreme Court acknowledged that the air had become a “public highway,” but a landowner still had dominion over “at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use in connection with the land.” In that case the court held that a plane flying just 83 feet in the air—the commotion was literally scaring the plaintiff’s chickens to death—represented an invasion of property. The justices declined to precisely define the height at which ownership rights end. Today, the federal government considers the area above 500 feet to be navigable airspace in uncongested areas. While the Supreme Court hasn’t explicitly accepted that as the upper limit of property ownership, it’s a useful guideline in trespass cases. Therefore, unless you own some very tall buildings, your private airspace probably ends somewhere between 80 and 500 feet above the ground.

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