Stormwater ‘recycling’ could help boost urban water supplies

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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This article is inaccurate and erroneous from the title on. Senate Bill 15-212 absolutely does not make it easier for cities to design stormwater management systems to reduce the demand for water from rivers and reservoirs. The legislation expressly prohibits the owners of flood control and stormwater quality basins from using that water for ANY beneficial use. Harvesting rainwater in Colorado absent a water right or otherwise outside the State’s priority administration system remains illegal.

  2. This article is completely inaccurate in stating that flood waters may be used by the jurisdiction that temporarily detains them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jurisdictions and flood control districts are required by statute to slow velocity and volume to mimic pre-development hydrology so that downstream property and public safety is protected. Using engineered detention facility designs, jurisdictions must insure that 72 hours after the storm ends, that storm’s water has exited the detention facility and is on its way to the downstream user. This bill (law) and its true implications are misrepresented in this article. A retraction is appropriate.

  3. STORM WATER RUN OFF CONTAINS MAY POLLUTANTS THAT NOBODY HAD ANY IDEA OF HOW TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC. A CASE IN POINT ARE ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT BACTERIA THAT ARE FOUND IN ALL OF OUR WATER SUPPLIES INCLUDING STORM WATER AND RECYCLED WATER AND (GULP) DRINKING WATER, THEY SAY.
    THE GENES IN THE BACTERIA MOVE FROM MICROBE TO MICROBE , SPREADING ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE. COME OF THEM THEY SEEM TO THRIVE ON CHLORINE AND THEY MULTIPLY ONCE THEY LEAVE A TREATMENT FACILITY ( IF THEY EVER SEE ONE.) TENS OF THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS DIE VERY YEAR FROM ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT INFECTIONS. IT SEEMS TO BE GETTING WORSE. SCIENTISTS SAY IT IS A BIGGER THREAT THAN TERRORISM TO THE USA. WE NEED TO DEAL WITH THEI PROBLEM BEFORE WE GO “DANACING IN THE RAIN” WATER OR ANY WATER FOR THAT MATTER.

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