June 2009 was the second wettest on record in Denver. In addition, the average temperature of 64.4 degrees (F) was 3.2 degrees below normal. Needless to say, we didn’t run our sprinklers this June.
Of course, during the course of a typical June, we do run the sprinklers. I follow Denver Water’s rules, and use my own rain gauge (pictured) to adjust watering times whenever possible. I use a lot of mulch to keep evaporation down. I plant drought-tolerant specimens. But with this much land, I am still aware of how much water I’m using.
So in spite of the great moisture we’ve been having, I started to research rainwater harvesting.
Imagine my surprise to find that in Colorado, it has been illegal to use a rain barrel to collect roof run-off. The reason behind this is, apparently, that if I collect the water from my roof, the folks downstream can’t use it. Drat.
Then I read that Colorado Senate Bill 09-080 allowed rainwater collecting beginning July 1. Hooray?
But as I began to actually understand the new law, I was again disappointed. It turns out, I still can’t legally collect water because I can get water from Denver Water (a “domestic water system that serves more than three single-family dwellings,” as stated in the bill). Oh, and even if I weren’t served by the municipality or other water district, I still wouldn’t be allowed to use the rainwater on my vegetable garden or lawn. Drat!
I confess I’m confused by this. If I collect rain water, then put it on my vegetables later that month, wouldn’t that be the same in the long run as if the rain had fallen on my vegetables? Won’t the water eventually end up in the same place, i.e. the watershed’s water course? Isn’t ensuring that the water goes into the ground in fact better than allowing it to evaporate off of concrete?
Here is my proposed rain barrel location. Notice that there is not permeable ground below this gutter, just sidewalk.
Is the water that comes gushing out of this gutter during a good rain making its way to the South Platte, really? I’m going to have to think that it just evaporates the second the sun comes out.
One website claims that “a pivotal study focusing on the Denver area revealed 97 percent of precipitation never makes it to streams,” although the study is not cited. I’d be interested to see the study, if I could find it!
Not wanting to break the law, I started to wonder about greywater recycling. My washing machine, for example, doesn’t drain directly into the sewer. The drainage hose is routed to a utility sink, where it then goes into the sewer. I can just put a bucket in the sink, then use that water in my garden, assuming of course that I’m using an environmentally friendly detergent and no bleach. But alas, that’s illegal, too!
Now, it is July. We’ve had very little precipitation and it has been in the 90s or close to it. I ran the sprinklers this morning, while letting gallons and gallons of greywater go down the drain.