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« IPCC Report: For The Climes They Are A-Changin' | Main | Frozen Niagara Falls - 1911 Pictures »

Sunday, 15 April 2007


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What's the cost per gallon of water harvested from roofs and stored in rain barrels? How does that compare with the prices charged by water utilities? Wouldn't it make more sense to raise prices and get people to use less, instead of perpetuating the increase-supply paradigm?

In the West, we typically get all our rain in winter and spring - when water demands are lowest - and hardly any at all from June through September, when demand is highest. A rain barrel that gets filled by the last rain in, say, early June, will be dry by the end of the same month. How much will that really help?

Aquifers are better at capturing and storing rainwater, that's why I have a well.

pex pipe

Rainwater collecting is not legal? Something new for me.


Thanks for your comment.

It depends upon where you live. In a number of Western USA states, rainwater harvesting is illegal or restricted.

You're in the UK, right? I don't know the water laws over there.

Plumbing Fittings

Is collecting rainwater that illegal? I have rainwater system in my lawn and no one is arresting or something. But nevertheless, this is helping my lawn be a little greener and my life have enough water.

D. Bainbridge

Michael, Thanks for the informative post on rainwater. My parents harvested rainwater for more than 30 years in Colorado - I helped install the system in 1974. The water rights discussion is appropriate but the law is preposterous. If fully implemented this would mean that a farmer could not furrow his fields - or a gardener install a swale. A legacy of lunacy that will need to be overcome.

California just relaxed rules on graywater use which have been equally out of touch with reality. My parents also used graywater for more than 40 years without a problem or a permit. DAB.


When cities end up with no drinking water the ones with restrictions will wonder what happened! So wake up your legislators to this fact or one day there will be water everywhere, but not a drop to drink! Albuquerque has the right idea of harvesting rain water for it conserves the precious water we need to drink!

Plus storm water run off in cities mix with motor oil and fertilizer are slowly polluting our lakes and streams!


Thanks again for commenting.

I assume you mean ephemeral runoff in a swale. I am unsure about that; it depends upon the particular state's water law. I think harvesting such water was okay in New Mexico, but I know there were limits on how much of that water you could capture and store (behind a dam).

I don't think we are seeing a "crackdown" on harvesting water. The Colorado law has been around for quite some time. If anything, states may be reconsidering water harvesting because of the public's interest.

Keep in mind that there may be quality issues with using harvested water for drinking, so state/local agency concerns are not simply about quantity and water rights.

When I was in Albuquerque, the city actually encouraged homeowners to use rainwater harvesting for their gardens. Why? Because it conserved precious drinking water.


Thanks for your response. Another question for you. So do you think eventually the crack down on catching water will include things like swales? Thanks again.


Thanks for your comment.

Having a water right does not necessarily mean you have to be "rich" (although it helps) because the cost of a water right varies depending upon the area and the type of right (senior, junior, etc.). But with more money, you can buy more or higher-priority rights.

It's analogous to owning a house - you don't have to be rich to own a house, but if you are rich, you have more options, such as buying many houses.

In Western water law, I do not know of a water right attached to a house, so it does not matter who moves into the house, be they Native American or not. If they want to use water for anything other than household use, they will need to purchase (or lease) a water right. Water rights are usually associated with land.

But if you move into a house, in most states you can use a limited amount of ground water for household use only (not irrigation) without acquiring a water right.

Water law does seem illogical at times, like many other laws. Don't forget, water law, in the West anyway, dates from the mid-1800s, and was designed to benefit those who got there first - the "entitled".

Hope this helps.


But doesn't that mean that people "who can afford" water right are the "entitled" ones you are talking about? In other words, water is for the wealthy folks and perhaps early land owners???

And for those folks who are old land owners, well if we look a little further into our past, the native Americans were here before them. So if a native American moved in to a house with no water rights, they are still not entitled? Where is the logic in that, tell me please.


Hi, Stephen.

Thanks for commenting.

Let me try to answer, guessing at Colorado's rationale: I suspect the state views rainwater or snow harvesting as an "unauthorized diversion". It's as though you were taking water out of a stream without a right. You are infringing upon someone else's water right.

By using harvested water, you are preventing it from reaching a stream or aquifer, where someone has a water right, thus restricting their ability to use water to which they are entitled (especially during water-short times).

Hope this helps.


Michael, what right are you talking about? "What the state wants to avoid is a situation where someone else's right to use water is impaired by someone else who does not have a right" How can someone not have a right to the water falling out of the sky on his land? How is someone more entitled to that? Colorado is ridiculous, I have heard a similar story about a Colorado man who could not use his own snow! To VA gardener: it's not the facist government, it is Colorado.


Hi, Mike.

Thanks for visiting.

I would try or At the latter site you can submit questions, and their 1 June 2008 post deals with a Florida project.

You should also contact your County Extension office, which is part of your land-grant university (UF-Gainesville) system.

Good luck!

mike zinn

What is Florida's law about rainwater harvesting? Having difficult time finding info. Any info is greatly appreciated.


Thanks for your comment. I take it from your moniker that you are from Virginia.

In the West, our laws relating to water are quite different, for reasons of water scarcity. I think the Colorado approach is extreme but I understand why it exists (my understanding is that they are revisiting this).

In most of the West, the state has the responsibility for allocating water among its citizens. What the state wants to avoid is a situation where someone else's right to use water is impaired by someone else who does not have a right. People who harvest water usually do not have a formal right to use the water.

And, unlike your savings account, where the money is yours, having a water right does not mean you own the water, just a right to use it. And you're right, the water is returned to the hydrologic cycle, but maybe in such a way that it is less accessible. And some water is always consumed.

Colorado feels that harvesting rainwater and using gray water could impair someone else's rights, so they have prohibited them.

Another issue is the existence of interstate compacts, where one state is legally obligated to deliver so much water to another state. Colorado is party to a number of such compacts - on the Arkansas, South Platte, and Colorado Rivers and Rio Grande, to name just four. States are fearful of anything that could impair their ability to deliver compact water, because they can get sued for damages (money, or water, or both). If a bunch of people start harvesting water in a basin, and the return flow to a river is diminished, well, that could be a BIG problem ($$$).


This is yet another sign that our government is becoming more fascist.

I read the information from Colorado. They state that it is illegal to harvest rain water and even gray water because it is used repeatedly by others before leaving the state. That's the same as making it illegal to put your hard earned money into a savings account because it's used repeatedly by others, before going to another state.

The fact, if I collect rainwater to use in the landscape, then I essentially am using it for a period of time, prior to releasing it back into the environment. It's no different from running the washer or taking a shower. I water the lawn, the plants use it and return it to the atmosphere and the cycle continues. In effect, my yard or garden is just one more stop along the water highway.

Come on guys! This is learned in 2nd grade!

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