Many enterprising Coloradoans collected rainwater in secrecy for years in the past, but today they no longer have to hide their habit. Thanks to a new state law that went into effect on Tuesday, those with well permits can now obtain permission to legally collect rainwater for domestic use, fire prevention and watering for less than one acre of property, The Daily Camera reported.
Until now, citizens who practiced an “off-the-grid” lifestyle or used rainwater for domestic use had to keep their rainwater collection under wraps for fear of legal and criminal repercussions.
“I was so willing to go to jail for catching water on my roof and watering my garden,” Tom Bartels told The New York Times. “But now I’m not a criminal.” Bartels had been illegally watering his vegetables and fruit tress from water collected in his gutters.
But the law is still limited, because it only applies to people who have or would qualify for a well, Daily Camera reports. In the dry Southwestern climate of Colorado, every drop of water is allocated based on water rights, some of which have existed for more than a century.
Colorado typically receives about 100 million acre-feet of water annually from snowmelt and rain. Yet, only 15 percent makes it into the rivers, meaning that the amount of water used by rainwater collectors would most likely have little significance, according to Regan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Resources Research Institute at the Colorado State University.
Meanwhile, in nearby western states, such as Utah and Washington, rainwater collection is still largely illegal, as ownership of precipitation falls on whoever possesses water rights for a particular area of land.