Let me get this straight. According to Colorado law, a person can legally possess and use marijuana. However, it’s still against the law to possess and use a rain barrel. Why are rain barrels so dangerous? When are we going to decriminalize water conservation? – H. Teaux Oh
Sometimes, Colorado is hard to explain.
This is one of those times.
Yes, it’s legal for adults 21 and older to partake in small amounts of wacky tobacky.
And yes, it’s still verboten to capture raindrops.
The state Legislature came this close to legalizing rainwater collection. However, the bill was held hostage by hidebound rural politicians who see rain barrels as defiling the state’s oh-so-holy water laws.
“Colorado water law declares that the state of Colorado claims the right to all moisture in the atmosphere that falls within its borders and that such moisture is declared to be the property of the people of this state, dedicated to their use pursuant to the Colorado Constitution,” explains the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
The state metes out water according to “prior appropriation,” which means “first in time, first in right.” Old ranches and farms get first dibs. Thus, rain barrels “steal” water from them.
Which gets us back to the issue at hand: How do we decriminalize rainwater harvesting? Action Line recommends one of two methods.
The first is the stealth approach.
Initially, we could allow “medicinal barrel dispensaries.” These dispensaries would sell rain barrels to adults with a qualified horticultural condition and who have obtained written diagnosis from a Colorado Master Gardener.
That, in turn, would then open the door for recreational sales.
Recreational rain-barrel shops would be strictly licensed and require background checks to make sure shop owners don’t leave the faucet running while brushing their teeth or take overly long showers.
The other approach is a full-on political battle led by a powerful lobbying group that won’t compromise on precipitation harvesting.
That group could be called the National Rain Association.
The NRA would have two parts – one for education and the other for lobbying.
The NRA’s educational arm would perform valuable community services, such as teaching 4-H youths and Boy Scouts about rainwater safety.
Meanwhile, the NRA’s political arm would vigorously defend “the inalienable right of the individual citizen to acquire, possess, collect, exhibit, transport, carry, transfer ownership of and enjoy the right to use rainwater.”
The National Rain Association must first tackle a ban on high-capacity rain barrels.
The recent rain-barrel legislation limited citizens to just two rain barrels. Precipitation patriots must assert their rights to a 30-barrel capacity.
Naturally, the NRA would have some snappy slogans, such as: “I’ll give you my rain barrel when you pry it from my cold, dry hands” or “When they outlaw rain barrels, only outlaws will have rain barrels.”
Which pretty much sums up the current situation, as dirt-digging denizens put a collective green thumb to their noses and flout Colorado’s silly distinction as being the only state in America to prohibit rain barrels.
And since the state “claims the right to all moisture in the atmosphere that falls within its borders,” Action Line suggests that the next time a big snowstorm hits, you should call the Colorado Division of Water Resources and inform them that their property is on your front walkway.
Then give those rightful owners 24 hours to remove their property or you will bill them for rent or charge them with trespassing. Maybe that will open a compromise on rain barrels.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if your “rain barrel” consists of a 5-gallon Home Depot bucket set on the dirt by the downspout.