Rain Barrels are Now Legal in Colorado
Perhaps you’ve been engrossed watching the Olympic Games and missed this important local news flash: Rain barrels are now legal in Colorado! Water is a scarce and precious resource here in Colorado and all of the western United States; therefore, the laws surrounding water use are complex and strict. Rain barrels are fairly common already. However, before House Bill 16-1005 was signed into law last week, it was illegal to collect and store rain water. The bill now allows most homeowners to have two rain barrels and collect a total of 110 gallons of water for use irrigating lawns, plants and gardens.
If you’d like to have a rain barrel, first look at the down spouts on your house. Is there one in a convenient location where you can both collect and use the water? If so, there are many options for rain barrels and most of the differences are simply aesthetic. The Colorado law does require that all rain barrels have a tight fitting lid (which you want anyway) to prevent mosquitoes and other pests. Additionally, you may want to look for a rain barrel with a mosquito-proof screen (a fine mesh of 1/16 of an inch). Installing the rain barrel involves diverting the water from the downspout into the barrel. You can do this by simply using a flexible gutter extension, or look for a more sophisticated device called a “first flush diverter.” The device helps keep your collected water clean as the first several gallons coming off the roof which contain the most impurities (dust, leaves, bird poo, etc.) are diverted away from the rain barrel.
You can use the water stored in a rain barrel by filling a watering can or attaching a hose to the spigot at the bottom of the barrel. A drip irrigation system, with or without a timer, can also be attached to a rain barrel. Just remember that the water from the rain barrel is meant as a supplemental source – when we have a long, dry spell, the rain barrel will also go empty.
Plants actually prefer this stored, untreated water; plants don’t like the chlorine in our treated water. However, it is not safe to drink and is not meant for general household use.
The CSU Extension service published a useful fact sheet regarding rain water collection which can be found here.
One last note: while collecting and reusing rain water from your roof is environmentally friendly, it’s unlikely that the use of rain barrels will have a large effect on your water bill.
If you have concerns or questions about your container gardens or irrigation system, please contact me. Also, if you're considering doing some landscaping work, please call me (970-988-3808) to help you with your landscape design.