Water conservation is a hot topic across the United States, but one of Colorado’s methods to limit water use could have residents in hot water. For Coloradans, the use of rain barrels is considered illegal and stems from a water appropriations doctrine that oversees water use in the state. However, a bill to change the legality of using rain barrels is currently circulating the senate floor in which advocates of the new bill are hoping to change how citizens manage water shortages at home. 
Colorado is one of 19 states that utilizes a water appropriation system. Established over 125 years ago, the system prioritizes water rights and usage based on a first-come-first-served precedence. By allocating water resources based on seniority, the appropriation doctrine also controls who is unable to use water from certain sources, such as rainwater or stormwater runoff. Consequently, collecting rainwater from your personal residence through the use of a rain barrel is considered a diversion of rainwater and thereby illegal for many residents in Colorado.
The proposed bill will be heard in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee this month and if approved, it will then move on to the full senate for consideration later this year.  The rain barrel bill would allow residents to maintain two 55-gallon rain barrels to collect and store rainwater for use in gardens and yards. However, the biggest opponents to the bill are senior water right holders who claim this diversion of water will decrease the amount of water available to everyone. A recent study from Colorado State University argues this concept is a fallacy and notes that the use of rain barrels would not decrease the amount of surface runoff going downstream to other users. 
Advocates of the proposed legislation hope to pass the new bill as encouragement for advancing water policy within the state. Water management supporters, such as Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, suggest that “It makes water policy approachable, not something just for lawyers and insiders.”
As of March 25, 2016, the bill was not heard in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee. Committee chair, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, postponed a vote to allow for additional feedback from the Office of the State Engineer. Senator Sonnenberg has requested the Office of the State Engineer to provide their own research into the issue to conclude if allowing rain barrels would in fact not have a detrimental impact to current water rights.
 Gentile, Nicole. If You Catch and Use Rainwater in Colorado, You are a Criminal. Climate Progress. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/03/22/3762378/colorado-rain-barrel-law/
 Colorado Division of Water Resources. Water Rights. Department of Natural Resources. http://water.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/SWRights/Pages/default.aspx
 Colorado Division of Water Resources. Rainwater Collection in Colorado. Department of Natural Resources. http://water.state.co.us/DWRIPub/Documents/DWR_RainwaterFlyer.pdf
 Marcus, Peter. Rain Barrel Proposal Drizzles Down on Colorado Legislature. The Durango Herald. http://www.durangoherald.com/article/20160117/NEWS01/160119629/Rain-barrel-proposal-drizzles-down-on-Colorado-Legislature