Stormwater ‘recycling’ could help boost urban water supplies
New Colorado law says cities can manage stormwater without applying for water rights
Even though the rain-barrel bill got dunked in the Colorado Legislature this year, another measure that could help conserve and reuse urban water on a much larger scale passed without much controversy.
Senate Bill 212 could make it easier for places like Denver to start designing new stormwater management systems that would reduce the demand for water from rivers and reservoirs. Instead of simply letting stormwater run down the drain, the water could potentially be slowed down to water parks and ballfields.
The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican representing a rural agricultural district in northeastern Colorado. Sonnenberg opposed the rainbarrel bill partly because he feared that a boom in the urban rain-barrel biz could cut flows to rivers that supply water for farms farther downstream.
But SB 212, the stormwater bill, doesn’t pose the same threat because it doesn’t specifically allow people to capture and use water, Sonnenberg said, explaining that his bill was aimed at ensuring that cities don’t have to apply for water rights when they design and build stormwater systems.
In a comment letter on the Colorado water plan, Denver Water explained the history of the stormwater runoff issue. Most senior water rights were established in a time when there weren’t a whole lot of paved surfaces to channel water into drains. Instead, the water from big rainstorms spread out evenly over the land.
The idea that cities should have to apply for water rights for the stormwater they manage is “shortsighted, unnecessary and in conflict with the goals and values” of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s executive order for the plan, Denver Water wrote.
Photo credit: Doc Searls, Creative Commons, Flickr.
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