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May 21, 2009

Who Owns Rainwater?

People cringe in horror when they learn that Bechtel, in its quest to privatize water supplies in Bolivia years ago, actually prohibited people from capturing rainwater in barrels. But it turns out that a similar rule already applies to water in the State of Colorado. Under a legal doctrine of “prior appropriation,” it is illegal for someone to capture rainwater because it is preventing water from reaching a river, whose supplies are already allocated and owned by someone.

According to John Ingold writing in the Denver Post, state senator Chris Romer has introduced two bills that would allow some pilot experiments in rainwater-capture systems. Senate Bill 80 would allow rural residents who do not have access to a municipal water system to apply for a rainwater-capture permit. A second bill, House Bill 1129, would authorize ten new residential developments to collect rainwater so long as their developers put an equal amount in nearby streams.