Water

Jake Ryan/KVNF

The economic downturn in the fossil fuel industry is not only affecting profits and jobs; it’s also impacting funding for state projects.

With a swipe of the governor's pen, it is now legal for Coloradans to collect the rain that falls from their roofs. The move makes Colorado the final state in the country to sanction rain barrels.

Update 5.13.2016: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation finally legalizing rain barrels. Our original story continues below.

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A bill that would allow people to collect rain that falls from their rooftops is hung up in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, after the chair said he wasn't comfortable with the measure. It's not clear when the committee will vote on it.

The same thing happened during the 2015 legislative session when the rain barrel bill vote was delayed. While the bill eventually cleared the committee over the objections of the Republican chair, it failed on the final day of the session when time ran out.

"I didn't plan on today being Groundhog Day, I anticipated that the bill would pass," said state Sen. Michael Merrifield (D-Colorado Springs), sponsor of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf].

Update 5.13.2016: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed legislation finally legalizing rain barrels. Our original story continues below.

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Colorado is the only state in the country where it is illegal to capture rainwater for use at a later time. State lawmakers are once again debating whether to allow residents to use rain barrels to collect precipitation that falls from their roofs.

"This is really straightforward," said Representative Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge), one of the main sponsor's of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf]. "You could use that water when you see fit, for your tomato plants or flower gardens."

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  • Hotchkiss town council member resigns
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  • State Forest Service unveils report on health of Colorado forests
  • Governor Hickenlooper pushes for more reservoir storage in the state  

The crisis of contaminated water in Flint, Mich., is making a public health message like this one harder to get across: In most communities, the tap water is perfectly safe. And it is much healthier than sugary drinks.

That's a message that Dr. Patty Braun, a pediatrician and oral health specialist at Denver Health, spends a lot of time talking to her patients about.

As technology advances, many industries are being disrupted by increased automation. But when it comes to managing and protecting the water supply, there are many tasks that still require a combination of people and technology.

That's where reservoir caretakers come in. Some cities and counties employ these workers to live in remote locations and watch over the water supply.

"Colorful Colorado" may one day need to be referred to as "Crowded Colorado," given the number of people expected to soon move here.

Weld County's population is expected to double to half-a-million – and El Paso County will still be the largest county. It's not just the Front Range; A Rocky Mountain PBS I-News analysis of data from the state demographer and the U.S. Census Bureau shows seven of the 10 fastest growing counties will be on the Western Slope, including Eagle, Garfield and Routt.

The numbers show an estimated 7.8 million people will call Colorado home by 2040. All that growth will take a toll on the state's infrastructure as well as water and other natural resources.

razorback sucker, fish
Laura Palmisano

Some native fish in the Colorado River and its tributaries are struggling to stay afloat.  Invasive species, dams and water diversions all complicate the recovery of endangered fish in those waterways.  One long-standing program ties together federal and state agencies with regional groups to help these cold-blooded creatures make a comeback.

  • State Supreme Court to hear Mesa County School Board eligibility case
  • Christmas tree permits for GMUG National Forest go on sale
  • Hickenlooper announces new state tourism director
  • Stories of the River: Solutions to the Crisis

  • Colorado Health Insurance Co­op no longer able to sell insurance for next year
  • Federal grants help coal economies
  • Large grant helps private well owners get their water tested
  • More snow than average predicted for southern Colorado
  • KVNF Annual Meeting results

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  • Second theft causes construction delays
  • Parks and Wildlife brings information to local libraries
  • Chicken lawsuit highlights problems with lack of zoning laws
  • New rules for oil and gas considered
  • Major break cuts off water service in Paonia

  • Ballots to start arriving in the mail this week
  • Mesa County shares space with local clinic
  • Court puts waterways rule on hold
  • Congressman Tipton plans Western Slope visit

Colorado's ban on collecting rain from residential rooftops has been a contentious topic at the statehouse, and a proposed bill for 2016 means it will likely be debated once again.

"Colorado is the only western state where rain barrels are illegal," said Drew Beckwith, a water policy manager with the nonprofit Western Resource Advocates.

"Every other western state that has our water laws has them legal, and it has not caused the Earth to come crashing to a halt."

So why is there so much controversy over collecting rainwater? The sticking point is whether doing so impacts downstream water users.

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  • Montrose chiropractor seriously injured in collision
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  • Colorado legislature continues to wrangle over rain barrels

  • Road closures across Western Slope
  • Montrose Fire District becomes first to sign up for city's new dispatch center
  • A look at TABOR and the recreational marijuana sales tax holiday
  • Legislators debate legality of collecting rain water

  • The chief of police for the City of Delta was put on administrative leave
  • Ouray County courthouse gets needed upgrades to security
  • Possibly record breaking El Nino will bring fall rains
  • A talk with outgoing supreme court justice about the importance of water
Small Potatoes Farm
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The state is offering financial assistance to Colorado farmers looking to move away from using flood irrigation. 

  • Montrose Memorial Hospital takes over local clinic creating women’s health center
  • State program helps Colorado farmers finance small hydropower projects
  • Montrose to disable downtown traffic light
  • Study finds connection fees lead to water savings

As cities in Colorado expand to accommodate a growing population, so are costs of providing services and utilities. Some communities, like Aurora, a city of 350,000 east of Denver, are reevaluating how they charge for services like water and how those costs might encourage smarter growth.

Urbanization of Agricultural Land

Aug 6, 2015

An additional 2.5 million people are expected to move to Colorado by 2040, the vast majority of them headed for the Front Range.   As part of Connecting the Drops, our state-wide water series, Maeve Conran looks at the impact on Colorado as its landscape changes from crops to houses.

The traffic on a stretch of I-25 north of Denver is the soundtrack to the changes that farmer Kent Peppler has seen happening in Weld County. 

  Newscast

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  • State Lawmakers Hold Water Meetings Across Colorado
  • Gunnison Man Sentenced For Damaging Federal Lands In Montrose
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Rural Tulare County, Calif., is now being called the epicenter of this drought.

That's because at least 1,300 residential wells have run dry, affecting at least 7,000 people. When your taps start spitting out air here, Paul Boyer and his team are who you call.

Under a punishing midafternoon sun, Boyer helps muscle down five of these hefty 400-pound water tanks from a semi-truck flatbed. He helps run a local nonprofit that's in charge of distributing these 2,500-gallon water tanks to drought victims.

  Newscast

  • Coroner IDs Woman Killed In Crash, Wanted By Western Slope Authorities
  • Palisade Police Chief Resigns, Sgt. Takes Over
  • Olathe Gets Grant For Walkway Expansion Project
  • Water Well Testing In The North Fork Valley
  • From Bills To Ballots, What's Next At The Colorado Statehouse?

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water. The oil industry and its backers welcome the long-awaited study, while environmental groups criticize it.

Rudy Mussi is not the California farmer you've been hearing about. He is not fallowing all his fields or ripping up his orchards due to a lack irrigation water.

For Mussi and most of his neighbors in the bucolic Sacramento Delta, the water is still flowing reliably from the pumps and into the canals lining the fields.

"If you had to pick a place where you would say, 'Okay, where should I stick my farm?' You'd come to the Delta," he says.

Colorado has experienced massive population growth in the last few years, a that trend is projected to continue. Finding enough water to meet the demands of the booming Front Range has city planners closely looking at how new developments can be built with conservation as a key component.

"The 2040 forecast for Colorado is about 7.8 million people, increasing from about 5 million in 2010," said Elizabeth Garner, the state demographer. "How will we deal with it? Where will we put them? How will we provide water resources and other resources, whether it takes 20, 30, 40, 50 years to get there?"

The Obama administration announced new clean water rules Wednesday that it says will protect sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans, rules welcomed by environmental groups, but bitterly opposed by congressional Republicans and farm state democrats.

The rules clarify which waterways fall under the Clean Water Act.

President Obama, in a statement released by the White House, said that in recent years:

Copyright 2015 Colorado Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.cpr.org.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In the 19th century, before Americans fully settled the West, some called it the Great American Desert. It wasn't considered fertile enough to develop.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

dry river bed, drought
flickr.com/markallanson

  

Tonight at  six on KVNF, Paonia-based environmental magazine High Country News will host a live discussion on megadrought. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIVE STREAM AT 6 PM MDT.

KVNF's Laura Palmisano talks to High Country News Associate Editor Brian Calvert about the event. 

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