Earlier this year, Colorado became the final state to lift a ban on rain water collection – and water rights activists are wondering how this may affect agriculture and water claims in parts of the state already struggling for enough water.
According to the recently passed law, residents in Colorado can now have up to two, fifty-five gallon rain water barrels on their property.
The water collected, however, can only be used for outdoor use and on their own property.
Some water rights advocates, however, wonder if it may affect the water table elsewhere. “It’s actually stealing,” Sonnenberg, chairman of the state’s Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, told The New York Times last year. “You might say, it’s a little bit of water, just a barrelful, how much damage could that do to someone downstream?”
Experts at the University of Colorado, however, say this is a false argument, as water used in homeowner’s gardens will return to the water table within a few days or weeks.
Still, water rights are a tricky situation for everyone involved, and this decision may only make things stickier, as demands on the already overtaxed Colorado River continue to grow – especially as the population served by the Colorado continues to expand, now at 40 million and still growing strong.
Many experts say the Colorado already can’t keep up, and major problems may arise at the current rate of growth within the next 50 years – problems which are only compounded by the current drought in the southwest.
This is something Colorado lawmakers say they are keeping an eye on, and the new law would seem to support that assertion, as it contains a provision noting that the State Water Engineer can curtail rain water collection if it appears farmers downstream are seeing less water as a result.
It’s clearly a tricky situation, and we’ll continue to monitor it as the role of water rights in public policy continues to expand.
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