Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rain Barrels Now Legal in Colorado

Photo by Carol King

As of Aug. 10, 2016 House Bill 16-1005 became law,  allowing most Colorado  home owners to use up to two 55-gallon barrels to collect rainwater from their rooftop downspouts. This spring appears to be a rainy one, so as a homeowner you might want to try your hand at capturing rainwater.  There are some caveats however so read the bill carefully before deciding to install barrels.

Highlights of the law are as follows:
1. Homeowners may use rain barrels to collect rainwater at single-family households and multi-family households with four (4) or fewer units.

2. A maximum of two (2) rain barrels can be used at each household and the combined storage of the two rain barrels cannot exceed 110 gallons.

3. The captured rainwater must be used on the same property from which the rainwater was captured, for only outdoor purposes, including to water outdoor lawns, plants and/or gardens.

4. Rain barrel water cannot be used for drinking or other indoor water uses.

5. House Bill 16-1005 requires the container to be equipped with a sealable lid.

6. Watering plants in a greenhouse where such a building is specifically dedicated to growing plants is NOT allowed. 

It is important for rain barrel users to understand that the capture and use of rainwater using rain barrels does not constitute a water right. The State Engineer will deliver its first report on rain barrels sometime in 2019 and if a water right holder can prove that those rain barrels have impacted their ability to receive the water that they are entitled to by virtue of their water right, rainwater collection will be curtailed.

Other considerations for the homeowner who choses to capture rainwater and use it in the landscape include the following cautions:
  • Untreated rainwater collected from roofs is not safe to drink, due to concerns surrounding microbial contamination of harvested rainwater. 
  • Because of the infrequency of rainfall there can be an accumulation of bird droppings, dust and other impurities on rooftops between rain events. Roofing materials, pitch, and heavy metals such as cadmium, copper, lead, zinc, and chromium may occur in high concentrations when it does rain. 
  • Acid rain can also cause chemical compounds to be leached from roofing materials.
  • Filtering  and screening out contaminants before they enter the storage container can help to mitigate this problem. Dirty containers may also become a health hazard or a breeding ground for insects and other pests.
For complete information on use of rain barrels in the state of Colorado, please refer to Colorado State University’s Fact Sheet.
The complete House Bill can be found here: