Monday, June 29, 2009

It’s Now Legal to Catch a Raindrop in Colorado, heres another article about the legalities of rain water ! who would have thought!

It’s Now Legal to Catch a Raindrop in Colorado

Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times

Todd S. Anderson used to keep his rain harvesting a secret.

Published: June 28, 2009

DURANGO, Colo. — For the first time since territorial days, rain will be free for the catching here, as more and more thirsty states part ways with one of the most entrenched codes of the West.

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Times Topics: Water

Rick Scibelli, Jr./The New York Times

Janine Fitzgerald, associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., depends on rainwater and solar power.

Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times

Tom Bartels of Durango said he had been “so willing to go to jail” for catching water on his roof and watering his garden.

Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times

Watering a lawn in Durango, Colo.

Precipitation, every last drop or flake, was assigned ownership from the moment it fell in many Western states, making scofflaws of people who scooped rainfall from their own gutters. In some instances, the rights to that water were assigned a century or more ago.

Now two new laws in Colorado will allow many people to collect rainwater legally. The laws are the latest crack in the rainwater edifice, as other states, driven by population growth, drought, or declining groundwater in their aquifers, have already opened the skies or begun actively encouraging people to collect.

“I was so willing to go to jail for catching water on my roof and watering my garden,” said Tom Bartels, a video producer here in southwestern Colorado, who has been illegally watering his vegetables and fruit trees from tanks attached to his gutters. “But now I’m not a criminal.”

Who owns the sky, anyway? In most of the country, that is a question for philosophy class or bad poetry. In the West, lawyers parse it with straight faces and serious intent. The result, especially stark here in the Four Corners area of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, is a crazy quilt of rules and regulations — and an entire subculture of people like Mr. Bartels who have been using the rain nature provided but laws forbade.

The two Colorado laws allow perhaps a quarter-million residents with private wells to begin rainwater harvesting, as well as the setting up of a pilot program for larger scale rain-catching.

Just 75 miles west of here, in Utah, collecting rainwater from the roof is still illegal unless the roof owner also owns water rights on the ground; the same rigid rules, with a few local exceptions, also apply in Washington State. Meanwhile, 20 miles south of here, in New Mexico, rainwater catchment, as the collecting is called, is mandatory for new dwellings in some places like Santa Fe.

And in Arizona, cities like Tucson are pioneering the practices of big-city rain capture. “All you need for a water harvesting system is rain, and a place to put it,” Tucson Water says on its Web site.

Here in Colorado, the old law created a kind of wink-and-nod shadow economy. Rain equipment could be legally sold, but retailers said they knew better than to ask what the buyer intended to do with the product.

“It’s like being able to sell things like smoking paraphernalia even though smoking pot is illegal,” said Laurie E. Dickson, who for years sold barrel-and-hose systems from a shop in downtown Durango.

State water officials acknowledged that they rarely enforced the old law. With the new laws, the state created a system of fines for rain catchers without a permit; previously the only option was to shut a collector down.

But Kevin Rein, Colorado’s assistant state engineer, said enforcement would focus on people who violated water rules on a large scale.

“It’s not going to be a situation where we’re sending out people to look in backyards,” Mr. Rein said.

Science has also stepped forward to underline how incorrect the old sweeping legal generalizations were.

A study in 2007 proved crucial to convincing Colorado lawmakers that rain catching would not rob water owners of their rights. It found that in an average year, 97 percent of the precipitation that fell in Douglas County, near Denver, never got anywhere near a stream. The water evaporated or was used by plants.

But the deeper questions about rain are what really gnawed at rain harvesters like Todd S. Anderson, a small-scale farmer just east of Durango. Mr. Anderson said catching rain was not just thrifty — he is so water conscious that he has not washed his truck in five years — but also morally correct because it used water that would otherwise be pumped from the ground.

Mr. Anderson, a former national park ranger who worked for years enforcing rules and laws, said: “I’m conflicted between what’s right and what’s legal. And I hate that.”

For the last year, Mr. Anderson has been catching rainwater that runs off his greenhouse but keeping the barrel hidden from view. When the new law passed, he put the barrel in plain sight, and he plans to set up a system for his house.

Dig a little deeper into the rain-catching world, and there are remnants of the 1970s back-to-land hippie culture, which went off the grid into aquatic self-sufficiency long ago.

“Our whole perspective on life is to try to use what is available, and to not be dependent on big systems,” said Janine Fitzgerald, whose parents bought land in southwest Colorado in 1970, miles from where the pavement ends.

Ms. Fitzgerald, an associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, still lives the unwired life with her own family now, growing most of her own food and drinking and bathing in filtered rainwater.

Rain dependency has its ups and downs, Ms. Fitzgerald said. Her home is also completely solar-powered, which means that the pumps to push water from the rain tanks are solar-powered, too. A cloudy, rainy spring this year was good for tanks, bad for pumps.

The economy has turned on some early rainwater believers, too. Ms. Dickson’s company in Durango went out of business last December as the construction market faltered. The rain barrels she once sold will soon be perfectly legal, but the shop is shuttered.

“We were ahead of our time,” she said.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Rapid Composting Method The author is Robert D. Raabe, Professor of Plant Pathology, Berkeley. and new show dates

Hello everybody. Wichita Rain Barrels has been accepted to the Downtown farmers market! I will be setting up there for three Saturdays in July. The 4th, 11th and 18th abd then on the 25th will be at the Sedgwick County Extension Center for their annual TOMATO DAY FESTIVALE.

I will be introducing the SPINNING COMPOSTER and of course be selling and talking about the RAIN BARRELS.

The link( double click the title) that is attached to this article will direct you to a paper written at Berkley about RAPID COMPOSTING. It is a short read and VERY informative.

I have also remade the spinning composter, I will upload pictures later today so check back and I hope to see all of you at the DOWNTOWN FARMERS MARKET next Saterday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Intorducing the Spinning Composter

Well everybody, here is the NEW Tumbling composter that many of you have asked for. It is made from the same barrels as we use on our Rain Barrels. The advantage to a tumbling composter is that is can complete a full cycle of composting in a little over 14 days.YES THAT IS 14 DAYS! The trick is that all you need to do is give it a turn every day and that allows the microbes to get sufficient air flow which encourages them to feed and make COMPOST . To the right is the pin that keeps the composter steady for when you are filling it, or when you want to make sure you have it in a different postion then the day before. More information will be forthcoming on our website so look for it soon. Check out!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

WRB is in the Wichita Eagle Beacon and on their website with a Video!

Area residents learn benefits of collecting water

Say, say, oh playmate,

Come out and play with me

And bring your dollies three

Climb up my apple tree

Shout down my rain barrel

Slide down my cellar door

And we'll be jolly friends


My mother taught me this nursery song when I was little, and I recall it every time the subject of rain barrels comes up. Which has been quite often lately: Rain barrels are making a splash this growing season. One Wichita man is selling two to four a week, even Lowe's touts them, and you can learn to make your own at a Botanica seminar on June 14.

It takes only a couple of rainy weeks followed by a few sizzling-hot dry days to show the wisdom of collecting rain. Not only does it save money and resources and reduce pollution, but gardeners know that the water that falls from the heavens is better for plants than what comes from the tap -- it's softer, purer, of the right temperature.

So it's no wonder that what's considered environmentally friendly these days was common-sense necessity in the days when the nursery ditty was written. And the water went not only for plants but for cleaning

I actually have a cellar door these days, but the closest I get to a rain barrel is a collection of watering cans and pot saucers that accidentally catch the rain. They usually don't make much of a dent in my watering rounds.

But some area gardeners are quite sophisticated in their use of rain barrels. Diane Dorsch of Derby, who will be giving the seminar at Botanica as well as a lunchtime lecture next week, diverts rainwater to a rain garden that was once a swamp in her backyard. Peter Daniels of Wichita, who has become an accidental rain-barrel maker, runs soaker hoses from a couple of his barrels to three raised vegetable beds.

Both Diane and Peter had started out looking for rain barrels to buy but found no stores offering them. The rain barrels they found online cost around $200 -- plus $50 shipping. So they got on the Internet and learned to make their own.

Peter, who lives in Riverside, made a rain barrel for himself last summer, and then a neighbor wanted one, and then another neighbor did, too. Peter and his wife had a new couch to pay off, so he made a few more barrels and took them to the farmer's market. One couple bought all three, and the couch was paid off.

"I thought, 'It was fun while it lasted.' I never considered going any further with it," Peter said.

But after local garden and water experts showed interest in buying barrels, Peter's dad mentioned trying the garden show. So Peter set up a booth there at the last minute and ended up selling and taking orders for 60 barrels.

"I've sold two to four a week since," Peter said. "It has been very unexpected."

Peter charges $100 to $125 per barrel (at and each comes with a downspout adapter, a spigot and an overflow hose. The new owner has only to supply a couple of cinder blocks for the barrel to sit on and about five minutes of hacksawing on an aluminum gutter to accommodate the barrel.

The barrels start out white, recycled from their use as holders of Pepsi and Mountain Dew syrup. Barrels slated for rain collection should be food-grade because chemicals from other barrels would kill plants. But the barrels aren't pretty.

"People use these around the world, and most people who have them don't decorate them," Peter says. But he painted the one in his front yard green and has another that's been painted with flowers. He can also make a privacy-fence-type enclosure to hide a barrel in a covenant community, but that's a pricey option that kind of defeats the purpose of the barrel. His neighbor's white barrel is hidden on the side of her house by a large, lush bush.

Diane Dorsch notes that now that she and her husband have perfected their barrel-making -- they found 100 ways of making a barrel on the Internet before putting their first one together one cold day in January -- many stores are selling them. But Diane likes the idea of recycling food-grade barrels discarded by restaurants. The restaurants have to pay to have them hauled off by a trash service, and Diane has gotten some of her barrels from a trash service. But she'd like to cut out the middle man and get them straight from restaurants.

Diane says rain barrels are an answer to what used to be constant flooding in her backyard. The Dorsches put in a rain garden year, making it a bit of saucer at the back of the yard. Extension hoses carry water from two rain barrels to a French drain down to the rain garden.

"We've had tremendous success," Diane says. "It'll have 3 or 4 inches of standing water in it, and 24 hours later it's gone."

She taught a seminar at the garden show about making the barrels and has been asked to reprise it at Botanica. She'll give a lunchtime lecture about rain gardens and rain barrels at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday and a workshop in which participants will make their own barrels from 1 to 4 p.m. June 14. (The cost for the workshop is $45, or $40 for Botanica members. Class space is limited; register by Friday by calling Karla Jahn at 316-264-0448.)

Diane expects the Botanica workshop to fill up as quickly as her rain barrels do, and she said she would do a repeat in that case.

"I'd be glad to do it every month as long as we had people who were interested."

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or

Now you know


Here are some tips for installing a rain barrel:

Make sure the area where you place the rain barrel is level; otherwise, the barrel tips over.

Set it on cement blocks so that it is high enough for you to be able to get water out of the bottom.

If it is in a really windy area, you may need to put a stake on each side of the barrel to keep it upright when it's empty.

Connect a short piece of hose to the overflow spout at the top of the barrel and direct the hose away from the foundation of the house and impermeable surfaces such as the driveway or sidewalk.

-- Extension agent Bob Neier, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

LOW IMPACT WEED KILLER, I wonder is Ed Begley knows about this!

Here's a simple, inexpensive, organic solution for eliminating pesky weeds that invade those spaces wherever they can find a patch of gravel, cracks in concrete or asphalt, spaces between pavers, bricks and stones:

Simply bring water to a boil in a tea kettle or pot with a handle, carefully tote it to the area where weeds are invading your driveway, walkway, garden path, porte cochere or courtyard. Pour the boiling water over the weeds, letting it seep into the ground. The weeds will immediately begin to shrivel all the way down to their roots. Within a couple of days, you can sweep away their dried leaves and pull out the dead roots with ease.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jack Johnson and Rain Barrels

One unfortunately common misconception about "going green" is that doing so means drastically changing ones life or abolishing all luxuries. While a crucial part about living an eco-friendly lifestyle is reducing ones consumption and therefore minimizing ones waste, one thing I love most about trying to live a sustainable life is noticing how doing something the "green" way is often just the smarter way. Using rain barrels to collect rain and reuse around your house is a perfect example of this.

In this TreeHugger Tip, musician and activist Jack Johnson, talks about how he's installed a rain collection system and how he's used it to teach his children about conservation.

The Benefits of Using Rain Barrels
Rain barrels are smart for a couple reasons. They save you money by reducing the amount of clean water you have to buy from the city to water your plants. And they help the environment by reducing the demand for clean water from the city, which requires energy to process.

As you probably know, keeping a lawn requires a lot of resources. A lawn requires a massive amount of water - a third of all residential water use in the United States goes towards landscaping - and many people use gas-powered mowers to cut it. If you're not ready to turn your lawn into a garden, but do want to have a nice green yard without as much eco-guilt, using rain barrels to collect the rain water off your house will help.

We've already covered reel mowers and electric lawn mowers, which work great, save you money on gasoline and allow you to reduce your pollution while maintaining your lawn. Rain barrels are just as sensible. Collecting rain water can help you cut down on the amount of drinking water you waste on your lawn, which will not only reduce your monthly water bill saving you money, but will also help the environment by saving that clean drinking water from the city for your other water needs.

Even if you only use the rain barrel water for a percentage of the water you use around the outside of your house, doing so will help reduce your consumption.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wichita Rain Barrels will be in the Newspaper

I was interviewed today by Annie Calovich from the Wichita Eagle Beacon. She is doing a story about Wichita Rain Barrels, it will be published this Saturday. They also did a short video of me talking about the manufacturing process and about how it all started. It will be posted on their website and here when it is published.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Something from NPR today. Its about Colorado and the fight to use water conservation.

Morning Edition, June 1, 2009 · The West remains one of the fastest growing regions of the country, and that continues to put pressure on scarce water supplies.

So, Colorado recently made it legal for some homeowners to capture and collect the raindrops and snowflakes that fall on their own roofs. That had been considered stealing because the water would flow into a stream or aquifer, where it belonged to someone else; Utah and Washington state have similar bans.

The change in Colorado may seem minor, but this could signal the beginning of a water-law revolution.

Water law in the West is different than in the East. In the West, there's essentially a long line for water rights; those who signed up for rights first are in front. And in some cases around the West, Native Americans are near the front of the line because they've lived there for so long.

For five years, Karl Hanzel "took cuts" in that line because he illegally collected water from the snow that fell on his home outside Boulder, Colo.

"I struggle to understand the argument for these laws. It doesn't really make sense to me," says Hanzel. "The water that I'm detaining here, I'm not exporting it to Mars … We have a leach field; we water the garden; that water is still returned to the earth … We're just holding some of it for awhile."

Colorado takes this sort of illegal harvesting of precipitation seriously. If caught, Hanzel could have faced fines of up to $500 a day. Luckily for him, a law recently passed legalizes his collection system. It's a narrow exception to the ban for people who would have to dig a well or have water trucked in.

But in Washington state, Tim Pope is still breaking the law. He owns Northwest Water Source, a business that has installed about 200 rainwater collectors in the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. Pope says state regulators tend to look the other way.

He's also president of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and he's on a mission to get rid of the bans.

"Western water-rights laws were done in the 1800s, and they need some serious overhaul," says Pope. He says the first-in-line basis is inefficient.

"It needs to be based on need — it needs to be based on proper use of water. We don't need to be using drinking water to wash cars and water lawns and gardens and flush toilets," he says.

Those near the front of the line disagree. Western tribes guard their historic water rights, as do municipalities like Denver.

"You have a basic foundation for how water is owned and administered in Colorado, and a wholesale change — to say, 'Oh yeah, take all the water you want off your roof,' — is actually a fundamental change in that," says Chips Barry, general manager at Denver Water.

Barry says he's not upset by Colorado's recent exception to rainwater harvesting — the effect on senior water-rights holders will be minimal. But he says if the practice were to become widespread, that could unwind a complicated system that has long determined who gets the limited water available.

There seems to be little risk that such a wholesale change will happen anytime soon. Recent efforts in Washington and Utah to get even minor exceptions to the ban on rainwater harvesting failed.