Colorado Legislature Passes Bill Allowing Rain Barrel Collection – Homeowners Associations Must Comply

April 21, 2016 | By: Sean Wells

A bill passed by the Colorado Legislature to allow for the use of residential rain barrels is on its way to the Governor’s desk for signature.  House Bill 16-1005 concerning the use of residential rain barrels to collect precipitation gained rare bi-partisan support in both houses of the legislature and has allowed Colorado to join the ranks of other drought prone western states that allow for collection of rain water for use as landscape irrigation.

Once signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper, the bill will allow a resident to collect rain in no more than two barrels with a combined capacity of 110 gallons.  Prior to the enactment of the bill, collection of rain water from a rooftop was prohibited under Colorado’s prior-appropriation water law.  The prohibition came under fire in recent years as homeowners were faced with ever-increasing water bills for irrigation in summer months. The bill is in furtherance of a trend toward more sustainable communities as it requires Certain Colorado Common Interest Communities to allow the practice to occur while simultaneously conferring the ability for the HOA to regulate certain aspects of the use.

The bill allows for the collection of precipitation water from a downspout from a single-family residence, which is defined as “a separate building or a row of residences joined by common sidewalls” and a multi-family residence with four or fewer units. All water collected must be used on the property from which the precipitation is collected.  The bill amends the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act to preclude an HOA from prohibiting the practice while also conferring the ability of the HOA to regulate the use.

Homeowners Associations will be allowed to impose reasonable aesthetic requirements that govern the placement or external appearance of the barrel.  In addition, Associations are not required to allow the placement of barrels on common elements or on elements which are maintained by the Association.  Moreover,  most communities will likely desire to regulate certain aspects of the storage of the water to ensure that the collected water does not create a nuisance as a breeding ground for mosquitos or a source of an obnoxious odor.

Given the effect of the bill on Community Associations, Directors and Managers for single family, townhome and certain condominium communities are encouraged to understand the law and to enact a policy concerning the use of rain barrels.  The Colorado Office of VF Law has a team of lawyers ready to assist communities with policy formation and all other issues that a community faces.