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Rainwater Harvesting in the USA

You would think that you can, without any problem, harvest the water that falls on your roof or land, wouldn't you?

Well, apparently in some federal states of the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, you cannot do such a thing and it is actually a crime.

Ever collected rainwater in a bucket to water the garden? There's a law about that in Colorado and, technically, it says you can't. Now a state senator from Denver wants to allow homeowners to collect water that drains off up roofs up to 3,000 square feet so ranchers and farmers could use it to water livestock and metro area residents could use it to water their lawns and gardens.

Democratic Sen. Chris Romer said the bill, which had its first hearing Thursday, could also be used to fight fires and eliminate the need for more dams and reservoirs by providing "microstorage" of water across the state. However, water interests, including Denver Water, are concerned about the proposal, and Romer asked members of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee for another week to make some changes before voting on the bill.

I must say that I have never ever heard anything that stupid in my entire life. Oh, well, maybe some similarly stupid things have been heard and read but this is daft in the extreme.

"We shouldn't let 100 years of tradition and law avoid the common sense solution," said Romer, who wants to install a cistern at the house he's building in Denver.

Colorado's water law doesn't specifically talk about buckets or cisterns, but the principle of prior appropriation applies. That means water, including whatever falls from the sky and off your roof, must be allowed to flow downstream to those who have a legal right to use it. So, that means, someone “downstream” from me has more right to the water than do I on whose roof or land the water, in the form of precipitation, whether rain or snow, falls. What about my right as the owner of the property? Excuse me, but this is not just stupid and insane, this is not right – period – regardless of what the law and other such “ordinances” say.

"When it's in the sky it's fine. But as soon it hits the ground, or on the way to the ground, that's where it kind of changes a little," said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. Sorry, I may be a little dense here but how does it change, precisely, Mr. Kemper?

It is time the State of Colorado and its legislators woke up to the fact that (1) the water comes from the sky and is free and you cannot put a price or a law on it and (2) that we must make use of all water that comes our way, rainwater – which could easily be used to flush toilets, graywater – as long as it is gray water and not black water, for watering gardens and lawns (gray water can, if properly collected be also used to flush the toilets), etc. to conserve the scarce resource of water in many places of the USA and elsewhere and even if we do not have a scarcity, as has been the case in the last summer and this winter – so far – in the UK we still should and must harvest rainwater and work on gray water systems.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), February 2008

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