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Rain barrel bill returns

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Rain barrels are designed to conserve water by trapping some of the runoff that would ordinarily flow into storm sewers and keeping it available for use later when things dry out. But in the arid State of Colorado, using rain barrels to irrigate lawns and gardens is technically illegal.

State Representative Daneya Esgar from Pueblo wants to change that.

"When you fill up your rain barrel with rain that comes off of your roof and you use that to water your garden instead of turning your hose on and leaving it water for an hour with treated water, you realize where are your water is coming from,"  Esgar said. "You might think a little bit differently about it and might help conserve the water that we need in Colorado to make sure that we maintain our great resource."

The prevailing theory currently keeping Colorado homeowners from using rain barrels is that run-off from residential homes eventually flows through storm sewers into creeks and drains that feed interstate rivers. So, trapping that water at the source could harm cities and states downstream. 

Esgar thinks that theory is flawed. She carried a similar bill last year that was defeated in the State Senate.  During the interim session, State Senator Ellen Roberts asked Colorado State University to study whether residential rain barrel use causing any downstream injury.

"CSU came and did a great presentation to the interim water committee basically saying this is absolutely no injury this doesn't hurt downstream users so once we heard that report we decided to go ahead and try again this year," Esgar said. 

House Bill 16-1005 would limit consumers to using just two rain barrels per household, for a maximum storage capacity of 110 gallons. The water must be used for irrigating lawns and gardens.

Esgar thinks the bill has a better chance this time around because of the CSU Study and bipartisan support already shown in the House.

"We've really been working since September with the opposition, the few people that were opposed to it, to really see if we could come up with a way to change the bill language a little bit that protects the downstream users without really infringing on the integrity of what we want the bill to be," she said.

The Rain Barrel Bill will be introduced into the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee next Monday where it is expected to pass.

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