Rain Water Harvesting Promotes Conservation and Connects People to Their Water

Drew-Beckwith.web“Colorado should legalize rain barrels and join every other state that already allows them. Rain barrels inspire a greater water conservation ethic.”

–Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager

The West Faces Many Water Challenges

The West faces many water challenges in the form of climate change, parching drought, and growing populations. Water conservation is a crucial, first-in-line strategy to ensure we have water for our communities, agriculture, recreation, and wildlife. That is why Western Resource Advocates cares so much about rainwater harvesting.

Allowing Rainwater Harvesting Promotes Conservation and Connects People to Their Water

Western Resource Advocates supports rainwater harvesting as a method of reducing dependence on the West’s over-taxed rivers and aquifers. Rainwater harvesting raises water awareness for residents across the West. Many people don’t know where the water in their taps comes from. They are experientially disconnected from the water cycle, insulated by a water plumbing system that always provides water when you turn on the tap – drought, rain, or shine. Harvesting rainwater, however, can help us connect to the natural cycles of rain and drought. Using a rain barrel, an above ground tank, or below ground cistern brings attention to how much water plants and people need to survive. Someone with a rainwater system develops a water cycle awareness and understanding that water is limited. Ultimately, this transforms into a conservation mindset and appreciation determination not to waste this precious resource.As we embrace a fuller set of water conservation tactics, we place less pressure on pulling water from somewhere else, be it irrigated agriculture or flowing rivers.

Colorado is the only state in the nation to outlaw the use of residential rain barrels. Our similarly arid neighbors actually push for, and some even require, rainwater harvesting systems. The reason every other state has embraced this tool is because it’s common sense.

Allowing all of the West’s residents to use rain barrels will build a conservation ethic in our communities and, foster a deeper connection to water, and will not impact other water users. Studies in Colorado have shown that on average, only three percent of rainwater hitting our yards eventually makes it to waterways and aquifers;, in dry years, it’s zero percent. In the West, almost all of our river flows come from melting snow, not rainfall. In fact, the vast majority of rain that falls on the ground (or is routed there via your gutter) is consumed by plants on the ground.

Western Resource Advocates Supported Legislation Legalizing Rain Barrels in Colorado

As noted above, Colorado is only state in the union to make using rain barrels illegal and this needs to change. Western Resource Advocates is supporting Colorado legislation to legalize rain barrel water collection by residents. In the spring of 2015, the Colorado legislature discussed reversing a frontier-era water law that made it illegal for residents to capture rain water from their roofs for use on the garden. HB 15-1259 would have allowed people to use up to two 55-gallon barrels to capture rainwater for use on their flowers and garden beds – without fear of becoming a scofflaw. Sadly the Colorado legislature failed to pass HB 15-1259 into law.

Western Resource Advocates will continue to support efforts by all state’s to promote the use of harvested rainwater – a gateway action to more water conservation.

Other Resources

Healthy Rivers Program

Water Conservation & Efficiency


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Drew Beckwith

Drew Beckwith

Water Policy Manager