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Hickenlooper signs one wastewater bill, lets another one flow by

Authors: Mark Harden, Joey Bunch - May 1, 2018 - Updated: May 1, 2018

(K_Thalhofer via iStock)

A pair of wastewater bills that passed the Colorado legislature got treated differently by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday.

Both measures are aimed at conserving Colorado’s water supplies — but the governor was less enamored of one than of the other.

Hickenlooper on Monday signed House Bill 1069, which allows reclaimed domestic wastewater to be used for toilet flushing.

But he announced that he would let the other wastewater measure, House Bill 1093, become law without his signature.

Both bills were sponsored by state Rep. Jeni Arndt, Democrat of Fort Collins, and Sen. Don Coram, Republican of Montrose. HB 1069 also was sponsored by Rep. Dan Thurlow, Republican of Grand Junction.

HB 1069 allows the state Water Quality Control Commission to work on rules for the reuse of reclaimed water. That starts with using a lower water quality standard for toilet flushing in apartments and non-residential buildings in the future.

“With the water shortage and everything we’re looking at by 2050, I think this is an excellent program,” Coram said when the measure passed the Senate 32-3 on April 17 after its approval by the House 47-14 on March 21.

Meanwhile, House Bill 1093 will allow the use of reclaimed water to irrigate food crops.

In a letter to lawmakers, Hickenlooper said that while he recognizes the bill has a “strong potential to alleviate growing strains on our limited water resources,” he has two concerns:

  • One, that the bill “circumvents” the state Water Quality Control Commission in its established role of setting standards to protect water quality and public health.
  • And two, that the measure sets standards for water reuse “not clearly suited to edible crop irrigation,” leaving “a potential for pathogen development.”

The state already allows reclaimed wastewater to be used for non-food irrigation, fire protection, industrial and commercial uses, as long as the state health department approves the application.

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.