30 days jail for collecting rainwater

Man sentenced to jail for collecting rainwater in Oregon

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

As I have now pointed out more than once, in the majority of places in the United States, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, it is illegal for the home- or landowner to collect and store rainwater.

Rainwater harvesting is a crime in most areas, as we have found of the United States, with the gods only know who, supposedly, owns the right to the water that runs off your own roof. It sure is not you who owns or rents the house and you cannot store and use it for watering your garden (or whatever else). It is not yours but belongs to the county, the state or, well, who?

An Oregon man is expected to spend a month in jail after being convicted on nine misdemeanor charges related to his illegal use of… water. Gary Harrington was sentenced after being found guilty of illegally collecting water on his own rural property.

Harrington, of Eagle Point, Oregon, has been fighting for his right to do what he wishes with water since 2002. Now more than a decade after he first defended himself over allegations that the man-made ponds on his 170 acres of land violated local law, Harrington has been sentenced to 30 days behind bars and fined over $1,500.

Authorities say that Harrington broke the law by collecting natural rain water and snow runoff that landed on his property. Officials with the Medford Water Commission contested that the water on Harrington’s property, whether or not it came from the sky, was considered a tributary of nearby Crowfoot Creek and thus subject to a 1925 law that gives the MWC full ownership and rights.

Therefore prosecutors were able to argue in court – successfully – that three homemade fishing and boating ponds in Harrington’s backyard violated the law.

For filling “three illegal reservoirs” on his property with runoff water, Harrington has been convicted on nine misdemeanor charges in Circuit Court. He says he will attempt to appeal, but as long as the conviction stands to serve 30 days of imprisonment. He has also been sentenced to an additional three years of probation.

Thirty days in jail for catching rainwater and additional three years of probation, and to top it all that would mean a record of “convicted felon”, for doing nothing more that collecting rainwater for use in time of drought and as a means of fighting wildfires.

When it comes to the point where a rural landowner can't catch rainwater that falls on his land to protect his property, it's gone too far.

The water company, in this case, successfully, argued the case that it owns the sky, basically. This is absolute, pardon my expression, bull dust (not to say the other term) and the company and the courts know that too. However, who pays the piper, is a question that must be asked here and it can but be that the lawyers and judges are not as unbiased as they wish to claim.

A free country the USA is not. I am not America bashing, before anyone accuses me of it, but I am just saying that while the claim is being laid to having all those great freedoms that others, apparently, not enjoy, there are quite a number of laws that are so very stupid that it is simply unbelievable.

In most countries of the world it is perfectly legal and, in fact, now becoming even a requirement, to harvest rainwater and there are places where all new homes that are being built will have to have a minimum size rainwater harvesting system installed to run a graywater system in the house for flushing toilets, and for the watering of the garden and washing cars, etc.

In America, this great bastion of personal freedoms, however, the harvesting of rainwater is, in fact, a felony in most locations. No one owns the sky or the water coming from there until it reaches the rivers that may then be considered a legal issue, as they are here in the UK where farmers need licenses to abstract water from watercourses for irrigation, etc.

© 2012