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Les squires

Coloradans can hope to harvest their rainwater soon as Senator Isgar’s rainwater harvesting bill passed the 3rd senate reading 34 votes yes and 0 votes no. The first House reading is scheduled for March 16th. If passed, this bill will allow any land owners who are eligible for or currently possess an “exempt” well permit may begin harvesting rainwater for domestic use up to 3000 sq ft. of roof starting July 1st, 2009.

We, it just so happens, learned that we are eligible for such an “exempt” permit after our district Division of Water Resources manager consulted with the state engineer about our subdivision’s water right history and received it in the mail in December. All we’ll need to do is apply to the state engineer for this additional water harvesting permit and away we go using our architect’s designed water system. Looking forward to enjoying some soft water for a change!

Colorado lawmakers have passed a bill that loosens a 19th century ban on people who want to collect rainwater.

Many people were surprised to learn they're not entitled to snow and rain that falls on their homes. A state senator recently found that out when he tried to conserve rainwater for his flower garden.

In New Mexico it is common practice to harvest rainwater and store it in cisterns. That's what Sen. Chris Romer had hoped to do in Colorado.

"I truly wanted to collect the rainwater off my roof to use in my garden, because I love gardening, but unfortunately, I got in big trouble," Romer said.

That's because Colorado law dating back to the 19th century said every drop of rain must flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, that it was the property of farmers and ranchers and anyone else who had purchased the rights to those waterways.

"You've got to be kidding. You're breaking the law if you put a rain barrel in to capture rain?" said Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan.

That was the reaction of Looper's constituents, prompting her and Romer to get the 120-year-old law changed. They did it by presenting a study that showed 97 percent of rainwater never makes it to streams because it evaporates.

The bill that has passed says residents can now collect it with certain restrictions.

"You can capture enough rain or snow to be able to put in a garden, to be able to irrigate up to an acre of land, to be able to possibly put out a small fire," Looper said.

Residents still can't harvest rain without a permit from the state engineer's office, and the permits are targeted for those who live in rural areas, not people living the suburbs.

"If you're tied to some type of commercial water system, or municipal water system, you may not be able to put a rain barrel in," Looper said.

"This is actually a great new concept, and given climate change, and given where we're going, we need new ideas to help us deal with our water shortages in the future," Romer said.

The bill's sponsors figure about 300,000 people statewide will now be permitted to harvest rainwater, mostly the in rural areas who already have exempt wells for household and domestic use.

There is now a second bill up for consideration that would expand rain collection to new developments in urban areas. That would allow for a pilot program and the bill will be heard on Friday.

Colorado's rainwater bill has gotten a lot of attention. Along with CBS4's reporting, including trips to New Mexico, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal have picked up the story.

See the article here. Or watch the breaking news video here. More news on the journey from CBS4 here.

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We received the first Rooftop Precipitation Collection Permit in our District July 17th! The application was finished by Kevin Rein (quite the appropriate last name hugh?), the CO Assistant State Water Engineer, and forwarded it to us on July 14th. We filled out the :05 minute application and submitted it to our District 4 Montrose office on July 15th. The permit came in the mail Monday July 20th and was approved on the 17th. It was that easy! We, of course, had already applied for our "exempt" well permit last year and used that permit number on the application. We can use the precipitation the same way our well permit allows. Let me know if you have any questions about the process or if you've been able to get your permit.


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