Water rights

Isn’t this bizarre? And as water becomes scarce, I predict it won’t be long until you see the same thing here in the Northeast. Corporations in several areas have already tried to negotiate rights to selling drinking water as a commodity.

People get confused: The water bill you pay now is an assessment for water treatment, not the actual water itself. Eventually our drinking water will be metered, just like electricity:

As bizarre as it sounds, laws restricting property owners from “diverting” water that falls on their own homes and land have been on the books for quite some time in many Western states. Only recently, as droughts and renewed interest in water conservation methods have become more common, have individuals and business owners started butting heads with law enforcement over the practice of collecting rainwater for personal use.

Check out this YouTube video of a news report out of Salt Lake City, Utah, about the issue. It’s illegal in Utah to divert rainwater without a valid water right, and Mark Miller of Mark Miller Toyota, found this out the hard way.

After constructing a large rainwater collection system at his new dealership to use for washing new cars, Miller found out that the project was actually an “unlawful diversion of rainwater.” Even though it makes logical conservation sense to collect rainwater for this type of use since rain is scarce in Utah, it’s still considered a violation of water rights which apparently belong exclusively to Utah’s various government bodies.

I know wars have been fought over water rights in the West, but it does seem they need to update those laws to deal with the present reality. It’s even stranger in light of laws that permit property owners to produce harmful amounts of stormwater runoff onto their neighbors’ properties.

3 thoughts on “Water rights

  1. Right now, here in northern NJ suboonia, we’re still being encouraged to collect rainwater. They want less rainwater flowing into the storm drains. And, since there’s a fixed rate for more water than a single person can use (unless they have a big garden, water the grass a lot, or fill a pool), they actually make out well if people collect rainwater for their gardens. The township just hosted a rainbarrel contruction afternoon at a local park. (I couldn’t afford the $60-odd dollars for parts, so didn’t attend. I would have liked to know some fine tuning details and left a message asking if one could attend to just learn — no callback. Google will be my friend, altho actually seeing things being done is a big help.)

    I can foresee, however, that a time of drought might change the municpality’s or county’s view of things. I remember when people were allowed, even encouraged, to take metal things away from the recycling center. Then, when the cost center became a possible profit center with an increase in what was being paid for junk metal, all of a sudden it was against township law to take anything metal. (I did manage to get the shiny, bright red painted metal wagon into the hatchback, however….).

    However, it wasn’t until recently that I learned that out in parts of the West rainwater is considered to be public and/or private property. Given that collecting rain water is an eons long human tendency, this has to be a legislated concept.

  2. In California, water has been metered for decades. (I’m not sure what you mean by “drinking water”.)

    Interestingly, agribusiness pays a small fraction of the going rate, being heavily subsidized by consumers and taxpayers. This gives the corporate farming industry no incentive to be frugal/green/sustainable in its water use.

  3. We don’t pay for actual water. We pay for water purification, assessed on the usage. This would be an additional fee.

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