Senate Ag Committee delays vote on HB15-1259 (Residential Precipitation Collection Rain Barrels) #coleg

April 18, 2015

Rain barrel schematic

Rain barrel schematic

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Homeowners who use rain barrels are violating state water laws, but a bill discussed in a Senate panel on Thursday would make it OK.

Under HB1259, which cleared the Colorado House last month on a 45-20 vote, homeowners would be able to use two 55-gallon barrels to collect rainwater, but only for use on their gardens and lawn.

The thinking behind the measure is two-fold, said Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, its Senate sponsor.

One, it allows for a way of delaying water from flowing downstream too soon and acts as a kind of reservoir system.

Two, it helps Coloradans realize just how precious water is in the state, and helps teach them to be more judicious in how they use it.

Opponents, however, said the idea violates long-standing Colorado water law because it goes against its prior-appropriations standards of first-in-time, first-in-line water rights.

Opponents also said Colorado likely would be sued by neighboring states, all of which allow rainwater barrels.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee that reviewed the bill, delayed a vote on it over a disagreement on some of its provisions.

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Water in the West and California’s drought: Why Colorado Springs should care — Colorado Springs Utilities

April 8, 2015

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via

From Re:Sources Blog (Patrice):

Living in the West offers many advantages. Wide open spaces, majestic mountains and amazing recreational opportunities, to name a few. Still, there are challenges and water is certainly one them.

If you’ve seen the recent news, extreme drought is taking its toll in California. In light of this, we caught up with our own water planners – Abby Ortega and Leon Basdekas – to learn if what’s taking place with our neighbors could affect our community and why we need to stay involved in what’s happening around the region.

Some of our customers many ask, could what’s taking place in California happen in Colorado?

Extreme drought can happen anywhere, and we are certainly not immune. We continuously monitor our water supply situation and maintain a storage reserve in our reservoirs to meet customer demand for at least one year.

Why should we take an interest in or follow what’s happening with drought in the West?

In Colorado Springs and across the Front Range, we are heavily reliant on the Colorado River for our water supply. The Colorado River starts in Colorado, but we only keep a portion of the flow for use in the state per the Colorado River Compact. The Colorado River also serves Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico and California (see below for a breakdown). There is also an obligation to Mexico. When any of the states or Mexico are in an extreme drought, their reliance on the Colorado River water may increase, possibly resulting in ripple effects that could negatively impact us. At any given time, the Colorado River supplies about 70 percent of our community’s water. Drought can also affect the levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which part of the western United States relies on for power production.

Will Colorado Springs experience any impact from the situation in California?

The California drought will not have direct impacts to our community’s water supply yet. We are working closely with the Upper Basin States to create a proactive contingency plan in the event that storage levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell drop to critical levels.

What is Colorado Springs Utilities doing to help protect our community from this type of situation?

Maintaining a dependable water supply for Colorado Springs residents and businesses is one of our community’s greatest challenges. Continuous long-term water planning is the reason we have a reliable water system today that supports our economy and quality of life. For us, planning is part of our daily responsibilities and includes factors such as water sources, demand, water rights, infrastructure, storage and much more. In addition, we are currently updating our Integrated Water Resource Plan, which provides the roadmap for sustainably addressing water supply and demand issues, while reflecting our community values.

What can customers do to help?

The intelligent use of water will always be a priority for our community, which has done a great job of adapting to our semi-arid climate. Our customers continue to find ways to use water wisely and we can help. A good place to start is our website, which has free xeriscape class schedules, efficiency ideas, DIY videos, and more. Folks should also join in the conversations we’re having through the Integrated Water Resource Plan process. There are opportunities for input, whether online or at upcoming meetings.

More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.

HB15-1259 (Residential Precipitation Collection Rain Barrels) heads to Senate Ag Committee April 16 #coleg

April 4, 2015
Rain barrel schematic

Rain barrel schematic

From The Greeley Tribune (James Redmond):

Although a number of Republicans joined Democrats in passing a bill in the House that could end Colorado’s ban on rain barrels, the legislation now awaits its first Senate committee hearing, where some Republicans remain wary of its possible long-term effects.

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee will hold a hearing for House Bill 1259 on April 16.

The bill passed out of the House with an easy bipartisan majority, 45-20, on March 23. It could have become a partisan issue, as no Democrats voted against it. But more than 10 Republicans cast a yes vote, with some calling it common sense legislation and saying rain water will go back into the ground anyway.

Many Republicans did not support the bill, which some say could cause issues with Colorado’s law of prior appropriation and potentially hurt water rights holders, such as farmers to whom they say the rainwater belongs.

But, some House Republicans who supported the bill represent counties with substantial agricultural interests, such as Weld County’s Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, and Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono.

Similarly, farmers and other professional and experts connected to water issues in Colorado have expressed views ranging from concern to support of the bill.

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee, hasn’t made up his mind about the bill yet, but he said Thursday he feels leery of voting for it and has not heard much from his constituents yet.

“You know, it looks like it’s a pretty innocuous bill,” he said. “Most people might say ‘hey why can’t we collect water off our own roof?’”

But if everyone took advantage of what the bill would allow and 50,000 homes in the Greeley and Evans areas started collecting rainwater, it could hurt the already over-appropriated South Platte River, Cooke said. Hurting the river could mean people with water rights do not get the water they are entitled too, he said.

“I’m not saying I’m opposed to the bill yet; I want to hear the testimony,” Cooke said.

Currently people cannot collect and store rainwater from roofs in Colorado. The bill would allow someone to collect and keep rain from his or her roofs in up to two 55-gallon barrels. Rainwater collected this way could only be used for outdoor purposes, such as lawn irrigation and gardening.

“The data we were given indicates that 97 percent of the water that comes off of roof tops never actually makes its way into the basins,” Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, said Wednesday. “I thought it made good sense.”

If most rooftop rainwater does not make its way into the system as it is now, Young said he would need to see data that showed how rain barrels negatively affect someone’s prior appropriation before he sees the bill as harmful to water rights owners.

Most of the northern Colorado legislators supported it the bill, he said, and of Weld County’s House representatives, only Rep. Perry Buck, R-Windsor, voted against the bill.

“I struggled with that bill,” Buck said Friday. She had concerns about the legality of letting people collect rainwater and how that could affect agriculture.

Although some people say most of the rainwater from roofs does not go into water basins, she said allowing all houses to collect and store their rainwater could negatively affect water rights owners.

Experts in the field have expressed concerns about broadly allowing all houses to collect their rainwater.

“My concern is this bill could result in injury to vested senior water rights,” said Robert Longenbaugh, a retired assistant state engineer and ground water specialist. Without requiring rain barrels to receive site-specific consideration, “I believe the potential is there for injury.”

Colorado has more demand for water than ever before, and a rain barrel takes away water, he said.

Glen Fritzler, a farmer who works near Gilcrest, thinks the bill could probably hurt farmers.

“It just seems like taking from the end users,” Fritzler said.

Not all farmers feel the same way. LaSalle farmer Harry Strohauer said the bill seems like common sense to him. Letting residents collect rainwater in insignificant amounts means they can put it to good use and avoid using other water sources.

“I don’t see a downside to that,” he said.

Conservation Colorado has also come out in support of the legislation, claiming the bill will raise awareness of Colorado’s water challenges and the need for water conservation polices.

The bill could set a nasty precedence, Cooke said, and if it does pass it could be hard to change it back. It would take hard work with stakeholders to find a different version to satisfy everyone, he said.

The latest Colorado Water Trust eNews newsletter is hot off the presses

April 1, 2015

McKinley Ditch headgate photo via the Colorado Water Trust

McKinley Ditch headgate photo via the Colorado Water Trust

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Before the Court: Change of Use for Colorado Water Trust’s McKinley Ditch Shares

Colorado’s water-short rivers present complex challenges that require creative solutions. At the Water Trust, we’ve always been inspired to explore new, localized approaches when existing ones don’t fit. For example, our innovative remedy on the Little Cimarron River southwest of Gunnison blends agricultural and non-consumptive water uses for the first time through split season operations. Seasonal lease agreements mean the water could be used for agriculture in the early season through our partners Western Rivers Conservancy, while later in the season more water would remain in the river for environmental benefits. Several Directors on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) praised our project when voting last fall to approve the CWCB’s purchase of the Grant of Flow Restoration Use for the Water Trust’s water right shares in the McKinley Ditch.

“I can tell that this has been a tremendous amount of work because it is novel. And it seems to me that it’s the sort of thing we need to explore so that we can figure out, if agriculture did something just a little differently but not harmful, could there be a benefit for some other use…Being able to move water around to where it’s needed, when it’s needed…by changing things just a little, I think, is hopefully the wave of the future.” ~ Director Patricia Wells, CWCB Meeting on September 12, 2014

In December 2014, the Water Trust and CWCB took the next step towards implementing this experimental concept by filing a joint application with the Division 4 Water Court seeking to add “instream flow use”(ISF) to the Water Trust’s shares of the senior McKinley Ditch water rights. Once this added use is approved by the Water Court, the Water Trust’s water rights can be used by the CWCB to keep water flowing in the Little Cimarron River, accruing benefits to almost ten miles of Colorado streams, from the McKinley Ditch headgate to the Gunnison River.

2015 Colorado legislation: HB15-1259 passes House #coleg #RainBarrel

March 20, 2015

1 TRILLION gals of H2O wasted per yr from household leaks is = to the annual H2O used by 11 MILLION homes

March 18, 2015

21 Favorite Ways to Save Water – Jain Irrigation Inc. via @DenverWater

March 10, 2015


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