By Daniel Barker
You might be aware that it is illegal to collect rainwater on your own property in some states, but did you know that doing so could actually land you in jail? That is exactly what is happening to Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, Oregon. He is now facing a 30-day jail sentence and fines of more than $1,500.
His crime? Harrington has been collecting rainwater in three reservoirs on his property, and the government doesn’t like it. In Oregon, all water is considered property of the state whether it flows from the tap or falls from the sky.
Collecting, storing and using rainwater is permitted if you obtain a permit from the state, but Harrington’s permits were revoked. The reasons why are not clear.
Harrington has been wrangling with Oregon’s Water Resources Department for more than ten years. In 2002, the state informed him that they had received “complaints” regarding three reservoirs located on his property. The reservoirs were used to collect and store rainwater and snow melt. One of the reservoirs has been on the property for nearly four decades.
When Harrington received notice from the Water Resources Department, he applied for the appropriate permits required to house storm and snow water runoff. In 2003, the permits were granted, but the state later reversed the decision.
Harrington told CNSNews.com:
They issued me my permits. I had my permits in hand and they retracted them just arbitrarily, basically. They took them back and said ‘No, you can’t have them,’ so I’ve been fighting it ever since.
Harrington is planning to appeal the conviction, which consists of nine misdemeanor charges against him for having “three illegal reservoirs” on his property. He maintains that the charges are based on a 1925 law that says that the city of Medford owns all of the water in the Big Butte Creek watershed and its tributaries.
Regarding the basis of the case, Harrington said:
Way back in 1925 the city of Medford got a unique withdrawal that withdrew all — supposedly all — the water out of a single basin and supposedly for the benefit of the city of Medford. The withdrawal said the stream and its tributaries. It didn’t mention anything about rainwater and it didn’t mention anything about snow melt and it didn’t mention anything about diffused water, but yet now, they’re trying to expand that to include that rain water and they’re using me as the goat to do it.
Harrington argues that he is not diverting water from Big Butte Creek. Instead, he claims that the water he collects is “diffused water” and therefore not subject to the 1925 law.
Harrington says that the government is “bullying” him:
They’ve just gotten to be big bullies and if you just lay over and die and give up, that just makes them bigger bullies. So, we as Americans, we need to stand on our constitutional rights, on our rights as citizens and hang tough. This is a good country, we’ll prevail.
Many states, such as Oregon and Colorado, have tough laws regarding the collection of rainwater. The only possible explanation for these laws – and the recent trend towards enforcing them more heavily – is that the government does not want self-reliant citizens.
Other laws, such as those requiring people to hook up to the energy grid whether they like it or not, are examples of how the powers that be seek to control us by keeping us dependent on them for things such as power and water.
Citizens like Gary Harrington should be supported for their actions and applauded for having the guts to stand up to the authorities in such matters. As Harrington put it, we need to stand together and “hang tough” if we wish to prevail in becoming as self-reliant as possible.
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