In one of our most exciting victories this year, we helped legalize rain barrels, which help Coloradans easily conserve water in their backyards. This victory mobilized Coloradans and received national attention. While this was an important win in a tough political environment, more substantial efforts to implement Colorado’s Water Plan were stalled. The first-ever statewide plan was finalized last November with strong goals for conservation, but little has happened to move it from plan to action.
Spotlight: Water Loss and What Didn’t Get Done
Despite adding flexibility to our water laws with the legalization of rain barrels, we unfortunately saw little accomplished that would advance statewide water conservation goals.
One example of a commonsense bill that stalled is House BiIl 1283, which aimed to create a water loss auditing standard for water providers. The bill would have helped the state meet its goals for water conservation set in the Colorado Water Plan, but it failed to pass out of the first House committee.
After receiving resounding support from Coloradans across the state, we have now joined the rest of the nation in allowing residential rain barrels. Residents can have two barrels with a total capacity of 110 gallons to collect rainwater for outdoor irrigation. A conservation tool and way to increase knowledge of our water use, this bill had bipartisan support, and it adds much-needed flexibility to water laws while respecting private water rights. Rain barrels are finally legal!
Pro-Environment Vote: YES
Bill Sponsors: Representatives Daneya Esgar & Jessie Danielson, Senator Michael Merrifield
Status: House Vote: Passed 61-3-1 | Senate Vote: Passed 27-6-2
Signed by the Governor: May 12, 2016
Increased flexibility for sharing water is an idea that has shown promise as a solution to help meet our future water needs. This bill creates an alternative water transfer mechanism that allows an irrigation water right holder to change their right to the Agricultural Water Protection (AWP) water right, if certain conditions are met. This would allow them greater flexibility to temporarily lease, loan, or trade a portion of their water right. This tool was narrowed and limited in the Senate, proving even incremental changes to water rights are meeting resistance.
Pro-Environment Vote: YES
Bill Sponsors: Representatives Jeni Arndt & John Becker, Senators Kerry Donovan & Jerry Sonnenberg
Status: House Vote: Passed 37-26 | Senate Vote: Passed 33-1
Signed by the Governor: May 18, 2016
After serious water quality issues went ignored for months, the state of Colorado imposed a significant fine on the town of Burlington in northeast Colorado. This fine was designed to trigger action and accountability to protect the drinking water of the community; however, local complaints about the fine rose all the way to the Capitol. This bill proposed curbing the state’s authority to impose this kind of fine, even though fiscal penalties are often the only tool to prompt clean up by industry or communities that are not prioritizing public health.
Pro-Environment Vote: NO
Bill Sponsors: Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, Representative Don Coram
Status: Senate Vote: Passed 18-17 | House: Died in Finance Committee