The Washington Post finds the message in the rain barrel


I was quoted this week in a Washington Post GovBeat blog story about a bill in the Colorado legislature that would legalize, on a limited basis, homeowners using rain barrels to catch the water that runs off their roofs. (See below for directions on finding the story online.) What made this little issue worthy of a national news outlet like the Post? What intrigued reporter Jeff Guo was not so much that Colorado was considering a change in law, but what the ongoing ban on residential rain barrels said about how the West manages water. His story, and my quotes, focus largely on the fundamentals and the flaws of water law in the western states. And Colorado, like a few other states, has language in its Constitution that specifies a particular system of water law: prior appropriation.

The best-known feature of prior appropriation is “first in time, first in right”–the…

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