Q: I heard that rain barrels will be legal in Colorado on July 1. Is this true?
A: For most people in Colorado, using rain barrels to collect rain for later use on their gardens will still be illegal. The July 1 date you’ve heard about does include one change for some people. Those living completely off of wells can apply for permits from the Colorado Division of Water to collect rain from up to 3,000 square feet of rooftop. This will likely apply mainly to people living on the plains in the eastern half of the state. If this fits your situation, you can get the application and learn more at http://water.state.co.us.
Some pilot studies are being done to evaluate the relationship between residential rainwater collection and volume of stream flow (in simpler terms, if people collect rainwater, does the amount of water in the streams go down appreciably?), but it will be many years before these are completed and possible future legislation legalizing rain barrels for those connected to municipal water systems is enacted.
It is, however, legal for you to divert rainwater to different areas of your property. Some people divert their downspouts to dry river beds that are prepared 18-to-24 inches deep, allowing the water to more slowly seep into their soil. Others are starting to create rain gardens that slow the run-off of rainwater from their landscape. Rain gardens do NOT retain water and they are not bogs. They require good drainage and preparation, as well as careful plant selection. You can find some good educational material at www.raingardens.org
Contributed by Carey Harrington, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or CSUmg2@elpasoco.com. Access fact sheets and seasonal information on the El Paso County Horticulture website http://elpasoco.colostate.edu/horticulture/.