For many, rainwater harvesting is a fundamental part of self-sufficiency. Even a 1000 square-foot roof will produce about 600 gallons of water when an inch of rain falls. Although this “as is” water is not appropriate for direct human consumption, gray water is ideal for a wide variety of watering and household needs.
In fact, many plants respond well to rainwater because it is soft water devoid of chlorine. At first glance, one would assume that governments would welcome rainwater harvesting to reduce the demand on local water supplies. As population centers expand into arid areas, and as climate patterns shift, municipal water supplies is increasingly stressed by drought and shortages borne of increased demand. Although this problem is commonly associated with the American Southwest, even a major city like Atlanta has had to cope with its own potential municipal water shortage.
New Colorado Legislation
Ironically, there are still places in the United States where the simple act of collecting rainwater is a violation of the law. For example, in Colorado it is still illegal to maintain a residential rain barrel. Strict water rights laws are often relics of a bygone era. Once upon a time, in places like Colorado, cattle and sheep ranchers wielded such power that laws were passed to guarantee the water supplies they required for livestock.
Now, it appears that Colorado is about to get in step with much of the rest of the country. House Bill 16-1005 was passed on February 29 and the Senate version passed on April 1. If Gov. John Hickenlooper signs the bill into law, homeowners will be able to legally harvest rainwater, but with two important restrictions.
First, property owners would be limited to having to rain barrels with a total capacity of 110 gallons. Second, the law requires that the collected water be used only for outdoor irrigation on the owner’s property.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jessie Danielson, spoke of the modest goals of the bill when she said, “we just want people to be able to have a couple of rain barrels to water their tomatoes.”
Last year, the same bill was struck down in the Colorado State Senate. Since then, the bill sponsors have worked with agricultural organizations and the Colorado Farm Bureau to assure them that the state’s water rights laws would not be unduly compromised by the proposed legislation.
State Laws Vary in Promoting and Restricting Rainwater Harvesting
Colorado is one of 16 states that have laws on the books restricting rainwater harvesting. One of the key areas of interest for many property owners is the right to develop underground water storage and filtration systems to make harvested water potable. Although some states have enacted laws that prohibit rainwater filtration to make it potable, Texas and Ohio are two states that do allow the practice.
Right now, there are a hodgepodge of laws on the books across the country. Both state laws and local ordinances greatly vary. While some states retain water rights laws that date back to the 19th century, others actually provide tax incentives for rainwater capture. For example, Texas exempts rainwater harvesting equipment from the state’s sales tax. In 2012, Oklahoma’s Water for 2060 Act was signed into law, and it allows pilot projects for rainwater harvesting and other water conservation techniques.
The Survival Life Association opposes personal property right infringements, including those on rainwater harvesting. We offer more than 20,000 products to those in the prepper and survivalist communities, including emergency supplies, long-term food and survival gear. To learn more about our rainwater harvesting equipment and how to select the right items for your personal needs, please contact us.