Your “crime”? Installing a RAIN BARREL and CATCHING RAIN WATER!

Yes, believe it or not, in some states rain harvesting (through rain barrels, cisterns, or other means) is illegal! A recent example was reported in the LA Times (,0,5585599.story?track=rss) by Nicholas Riccardi, reporting from Denver.

Many states sell the rights to bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, however in some western states they take it to a whole new level. Their claims can actually extend to water BEFORE it enters the lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. In fact, Riccardi’s article Dough Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress as saying, “If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else.”

Now let’s think about this for a minute. I can’t use the water that falls on my property? So in this line of thinking, I should not be allowed to have plants of any sort on my property, even grass. That would actually use some of this rain water that falls on my property, wouldn’t it? And wouldn’t having barren soil allow more of it to run into the rivers and streams (forget about erosion for a minute). What about the rain that falls on my land and then evaporates? Can I be arrested because I failed to stop the evaporation? Or what if my dog drinks from a puddle of rainwater, can he be thrown in the pound? What’s next? The air we breathe? The sunlight?

So, what are these criminals in Colorado trying to do by stealing this water? For one thing, they are trying to reduce the amount of potable water they use on a daily basis; which would reduce the amount used by the cities and municipalities in Colorado; which in turn would reduce the amount of water taken from the rivers and streams and lakes and ponds; which in turn would leave more water for those with the so-called “water rights”. I don’t get the logic! What do these crooks do with the water they are “stealing”? Gosh, they use it to water their gardens, water their flowers, and in some cases wash their cars. Doesn’t that water end up in the ground anyway? It serves to reduce storm water run-off, thereby reducing erosion, reducing the need for storm sewer infrastructure, and allowing the earth to filter the water before it enters the rivers and streams. Actually sounds helpful to capture rainwater rather than criminal, doesn’t it?

Where were these guys when we dammed up the Colorado River (I know it’s not in Colorado) to provide water to Las Vegas and Los Angeles? The Colorado River doesn’t even flow all the way to the ocean anymore. Many Mexican farmers have been forced to either move or starve because there is not enough water flowing to grow their food.

How did these laws come to be in the first place? Remember the west of the movies, dry desert for miles and miles? These laws were created because of the lack of clean, usable water. You’ve heard the saying “Water is the next oil?” OPEC will be replaced by WPEC. I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs about lawsuits between states over water rights. It seems incomprehensible that on a planet mostly covered with water that we would face this problem doesn’t it? Do you think anyone 50 years ago would have thought we would be running out of oil?

Few deny the fact of global warming, there may be those that argue about its cause, but global warming is a fact. This will serve to create more stress on our already stressed water systems. You only have to look toward the southeastern United States to see the impacts of a prolonged drought. Or, look to the “bathtub” ring around “Lake” Mead in the Southwest. Vegas could run out of water, not in 200 or 100 or even 50 years, but in a matter of decades.

This is a systemic problem. Just as with the aging power grid, or the issues of dependency on oil, this is not going to be solved without an integrated approach. Government, business, and the individual are going to have to work together to change the way we live and the way we use the resources of the planet. Until recently I had never really thought about what happens to the water as it leaves my property. When I fertilize my yard, where do those chemicals go? When I let my car drip oil on my driveway, where does it end up? We all need to think about it and more than think about, we need to use that knowledge to change our behaviors.