A “rainy day fund” has new meaning in Colorado after the state Senate passed House Bill 1005 on April 1, a measure allowing people up to two 55-gallon rain barrels per household.
Forget the traditional notion of using a rainy day fund to tap into a savings account for an unforeseen and unwanted expense. Soon Coloradans will be able to use a rainy day to build up their personal water supply and use it during dry spells.
The divide on rainwater collection was never more evident than in 2015, when the rain barrels bill was first introduced to the legislature, only to die in the state Senate.
But that wasn’t the case this year. After a successful trip through the state House on March 4 and then the state Senate, this bipartisan bill is now heading to Gov. Hickenlooper to be signed into law.
“The bill embodies Denver Water’s vision for overall urban water efficiency, which includes using the most appropriate water source for each water use,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/manager. “This is the type of thinking and action that we’ve urged throughout the Colorado Water Plan and in the state legislature.”
Rain barrels aren’t the sole answer to Colorado’s water supply gap. In fact, collecting 110 gallons of rainwater will not supply a homeowner with enough water to irrigate a typical landscape — sprinkler systems alone can end up applying 700 gallons of water a day for a 4,500 square-foot yard.
But that doesn’t mean this water is insignificant. Every drop maximized from the sky is a drop saved. Your water utility doesn’t need to store, treat and pump it to your house, and it remains in the river for other uses.
And just as important, those who use rain barrels will gain a greater understanding for what it takes to collect and store water by managing their own small-scale water system.
Rooftops will become miniature watersheds, and the rain will be diverted through downspouts into the barrels for storage — similar to how Denver Water collects and stores water in mountain reservoirs. Homeowners will learn to balance out supply and demand to appropriately manage the water collected.
And, just like in our system, there will need to be upkeep. Barrels will need to be cleaned, and valves, hoses and nozzles maintained and upgraded overtime.
“These types of efforts are an important step in connecting urban customers to their source in ways never experienced before,” said Lochhead.