Rain Barrels in Colorado
Colorado farmers and ranchers work tirelessly to help ensure proper stewardship of the state’s most precious resource: water. Now all Coloradans can share in this responsibility by saving and conserving water by using rain barrels to catch rainwater from rooftops.
Prior to now, it was illegal to catch rainwater due to Colorado’s complex system of laws that administer water allocation known as the “prior appropriation system.”
But this year, Colorado Farm Bureau worked with legislators to come up with a solution that would protect water rights and the prior appropriation system, while allowing the use of rain barrels for Colorado’s urban and suburban residents.
House Bill 1006 was signed into law by Governor Hickenloooper and will take effect on August 10th. The law will allow your family to use rain barrels to help conserve water, Colorado’s most precious resource.
Rules and Regulations:
• Each household is no more than TWO 55‐gallon rain barrels
• Residents of Apartments, nor Apartment buildings, are allowed to use rain barrels – only single family houses
• Rain Barrels can only be used to water vegetation (flowers, lawn, garden) on your property
• CANNOT be used for drinking water
• All rain barrels are regulated by the State Engineer
•Users are susceptible to complianceinspections by the state engineer
• How to make your own rainbarrel
• How to install a rainbarrel
• Irrigation system
Why is water such a big issue in Colorado?
Water is the lifeblood of our state; it is important for our vibrant farms and ranches to recreation to growing urban centers. Our water systems are vital because Colorado is an arid state that receives around 17 inches of rainfall per year. We are fortunate that massive snowfall in the mountains creates unique opportunities for storing water and putting it to beneficial use. Water
storage not only benefits agriculture and our growing cities, it also mitigates floods and dry periods by controlling the release of water from our state.
Why do we irrigate crops in Colorado?
The water systems in Colorado were developed over a hundred years ago mostly by farmers and ranchers to water livestock and irrigate crops. Without water for irrigation, Colorado farms would find it challenging to grow crops. Because of our vast water system, agriculture is the second largest contributor to the state’s economy behind only tourism.
How many waterways are there in Colorado?
Colorado is a headwater state meaning that all of the water runs out of the state. There are no major rivers that flow into Colorado, but
there are 19 states that rely on our water outflow. Colorado has seven major river basins; the South Platte, Arkansas River, Rio Grande, San Juan/Dolores, Gunnison River, Colorado River and Yampa/White River.
How is water distributed to farms, cities, etc?
Water is distributed to farms and cities under the Prior Appropriation Law. This means that the first person to stake a claim or right to the water gets the first use of it. These individuals are called “senior water right holders.” Individuals who came after can also file a claim to the water, but they are called “junior water right holders” and cannot get their claim filled before senior water right holders. Because of the limited nature of water in Colorado, this system is the best way to make sure that water distribution happens in an orderly fashion. This system has been in place since the 1890s.
Do farmers conserve water?
Yes! Farmers use several methods to conserve water such as planting crops that need less water to grow, letting the land lay fallow (unplanted) and using efficient irrigation methods.