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Colorado's Statewide Nightmare Is Over: Rain Barrels Are Now Legal

Bente Birkeland
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three rain barrels once the bill that made them legal in the state was signed.

With a swipe of the governor's pen, it is now legal for Coloradans to collect the rain that falls from their roofs. The move makes Colorado the final state in the country to sanction rain barrels.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said it ties in perfectly to the state’s long-term water plan, unveiled in 2015.

"[Rain barrels] promote education, people pay attention to how water is used," he said. "They also promote stewardship."

Drew Beckwith of Boulder's Western Resource Advocates would agree with that sentiment. He considers a rain barrel to be a tool that can start to connect the populace with their water – an especially important point in the arid west.

"It’s about the fact that someone with a rain barrel begins to pay more attention to when it rains and when it doesn’t rain and they begin to understand that water is a limited resource and that act of managing your own water builds your own conservation ethic," Beckwith said.

It's been a slog of sorts for proponents of rain barrels, as each attempt to get a bill pushed through the legislature came in fits and starts. The barrels became symbolic of the general angst over water in a state that is divided between rural and urban uses, as well as commercial and conservation uses. Opponents have worried that rain barrels would hurt downstream users.

Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR

The law, HB 16-1005 [.pdf], goes into effect in August 2016 and would allow people to collect 110 gallons of rain that falls from the roof.

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