2016 #COleg: State Rep. Sonnenburg’s new rain barrel bill will require registration and augmentation

Rain barrel schematic
Rain barrel schematic

From KUNC (Bente Birkeland):

“If you have a rain barrel, that’s less that’s going to run into the street,” said Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling).

And he believes, less water for farmers and ranchers – which is why Sonneberg opposed the rain barrel bill when it last came up and made sure it was defeated. He’s now floating a new measure that would allow rain barrels, if people register them. Then it would be up to water providers to determine how to replace the lost water.

“We’re going to bring a bill that does it right and honors the prior appropriation system and Colorado water law,” said Sonnenberg. “We need a simple and fair process on how that water should be replaced.”

But during a recent hearing at the state capitol, academic water experts from Colorado State University testified that there would be no need for a bill like Sonnenberg’s.

“This water doesn’t run off any way, and we capture a little of it and we put it on our gardens or we put it on our roses or something,” said Dr. Larry Roesner, a civil and environmental engineering professor at CSU.

“It would take a lot of water before it made a significant impact,” said Roesner.

Two other CSU experts, along with Roesner, testified before the Water Resources Review committee, which is meeting in the interim to discuss water policy.

“When you have scientists come in and give you the facts I think it’s important to incorporate that into your thought process,” said Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

As the chair of the committee, Roberts was frustrated when the previous rain barrel bill didn’t pass. She wanted to come back to the topic in between sessions – especially since next session will be during an election year.

“I’m struggling myself to explain to people on the street why this is so controversial. In my district in southwest Colorado, those who want to use rain barrels, use rain barrels today, and a lot of people across party lines were appalled that the legislature was struggling so much with this,” said Roberts.

For Drew Beckwith with Western Resource Advocates the measure is mostly about educating the public about water. He said too many people fail to understand where their water comes from, and he said water providers in other states where it is legal say rain barrels help connect people to water policy.

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