Educate your customers about the new rain barrel law Email
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 03:00 AM

Rain barrels legalized in ColoradoThis month, Governor Hickenlooper signed into law a bill that will allow Colorado residents to use rain barrels to collect rainwater. The law has received much attention, and landscape professionals are sure to receive customer requests for incorporating the barrels into their irrigation plans.

The law defines “rain barrel” as “a storage container with a sealable lid that is located above ground outside of a residential home and use for collecting precipitation from a downspout of a rooftop.”

Key points in the new law for consumers

Here are some important points you can share with clients so that they may harvest rainwater safely and legally:

  1. You may only install a rain barrel in a single-family home or a multi-unit building with four or fewer units. 
  2. Households are limited to two barrels with a total capacity of 110 gallons. This limit applies to single-family households and buildings with four or fewer households.* So if a consumer lives in a townhome with 2 units, each neighbor can have one barrel, not more than 55-gallons in capacity. But you can do a lot with 55 gallons of water!
  3. You can only use the water to irrigate the residential property on which the barrel collects water. 
  4. The water is only allowed for non-potable, outdoor use in gardening or landscaping. Water collected from rooftops and gutters is not safe for consumption.
  5. Your rain barrel must be equipped with a sealable lid. Mosquitos, which can carry West Nile virus, are a serious issue. Don’t create a neighborhood for them.

Another important provision of the law is that it prevents an association such as an HOA from prohibiting rain barrel use—as long as the use follows the law properly. That means waiting until August 10, when the law goes into effect, to put the barrel in place. You can, however, incorporate rain barrels into you design right away and hook them up later.

Don’t try this at home—without help
Though Pinterest might have hundreds of DIY rain barrel tutorials, it is strongly recommended that consumers purchase one from a trustworthy company. Repurposing something into a rain barrel can be a problem if not done properly or without forethought. For example, using a light-colored tank will allow algae to grow. And using a tank that previously held other liquids (food, drink) can result in bacteria; you don’t want to attract bugs or water your plants with sugar water.

Rain barrels are not a ‘set it and forget it’ form of irrigation.
They require careful maintenance. Users need to check regularly for debris, clean it, replace the screen as needed, and—like any irrigation tool—winterize it. If the water is not used up regularly, it’s important to empty it occasionally. Monitoring where any overflow ends up can help prevent flooding around the house’s foundation.

*Buildings with five or more units, such as apartments or condos, may not use rain barrels. If you or a client is unsure about the lawfulness of using a rain barrel, it is best to contact your county government or the Colorado Division of Water Resources to be sure before proceeding.

For further reading: Colorado State University Extension has created a fact sheet with additional details on rainwater harvesting.

Read more in this issue:
OSHA final rule regarding silica dust exposure
Understanding the DOL overtime rule
Legislative update for Colorado landscape industry
Collaboration reaps rewards--The ELITE Award for Irrigation Management