I first heard about “water rights” while watching the documentary “The Future of Food” a few years ago. It was hard for me to believe that anyone could “own” rain, or that it could be illegal for you to collect the water that falls from the sky and store it for later use.
Part of me thought that it must just be a story taken out of context. Conspiracy theories, paranoia, and all that. In my heart, though, I somehow knew it was too crazy not to be true.
Several months ago the subject came up again on a more (trusted?) mainstream media outlet; a local TV station in Utah. I made a quick mention of it in a post several months ago.
Still seems crazy though, right? I mean, how can the rainwater that falls on my yard belong to someone else? It's RAIN.
If this is the first time you have ever heard of such a crazy thing, I can understand if you don’t take my word for it. I can also understand if you don’t have faith in a little known movie documentary. And let’s face it, local TV news stations have been know to just plain goof up.
Perhaps an article in the Wall Street Journal would have a little more credibility. After all, I'm not sure how much more "mainstream" you can get than the WSJ. Here are some selected excerpts from Out West, Catching Raindrops Can Make You an Outlaw:
It is, in fact, illegal in Colorado to collect rainwater. State law is vague about the penalties, except to say that violators can be taken to court and ordered to pay damages.
Vast quantities of river water are made available, free of charge, to a variety of public and private interests, including oil companies, ski resorts, fire districts and breweries. The international food conglomerate Nestlé has applied for a permit to draw water from a Colorado aquifer and sell it in plastic bottles under its Arrowhead brand.
Those appropriations are made under a seniority system based on first-come first-serve claims staked out as far back as the 1850s. Colorado law explicitly states that every drop of moisture suspended in the atmosphere must be divvied up according to those claims.
Setting a barrel on the lawn to recycle rain "sounds nice and efficient, but in my opinion, under Colorado law, that is theft," says Glenn Porzak, a lawyer who specializes in water-rights claims. "That rainwater is spoken for."
I'm sure it is. I just don't remember ever being given the option to make my claim. Do you?