At first I thought it was a good idea. I never imagined that in some communities it would be prohibited.
During some of the recent rains I put some little buckets to catch rainwater that had drained off the roof. In this part of the state you can hardly ever have too much water, and good-quality water is extra-valuable.
One of my water-use indulgences is an experimental little bog garden with carnivorous plants. Tap water here has four times the dissolved solids usually recommended for these swamp-dwellers, so in warmer weather they get five gallons a week of reverse osmosis water from the local water store. Collecting fresh rainwater seemed like a much more sustainable alternative.
Left: Drosera Marston Dragon.
Right: Drosera capensis, red form, with deerfly snack.
Yesterday’s LA Times had an article on residents in some of the dryland Four Corners states who were finding out that collecting rainwater was actually illegal in their communities. Because of a complex patchwork of water rights agreements, many homeowners actually don’t own the rainwater that falls on their houses.
Here’s a quick snippet from the article:
“If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress… Frank Jaeger of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, on the arid foothills south of Denver, sees water harvesting as an insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource. “Every drop of water that comes down keeps the ground wet and helps the flow of the river,” Jaeger said. He scoffs at arguments that harvesters like Holstrom only take a few drops from rivers. “Everything always starts with one little bite at a time.”
I have a healthy respect for the rule of reasonable laws, but these seemed way beyond the pale. Like, are they worried these people are going to bottle the rainwater and sell it to us in Southern California?
Here within view of the Pacific Ocean, any water not retained in the ground would just wash down the storm drains and slide out into the bay. I doubt we have the same sorts of rules. But for many folks in Utah or Colorado who are trying to grow their own veggies, doing what they can to reduce become more self-sustaining and reduce their footprint on the earth, things aren’t so easy.
What do you think? Should the rainwater belong to all of us?