Government Makes Rainwater Illegal

In news that seems like it came straight out of Bizzaro World, a Man in Oregon has been sentenced to 30 days in jail after authorities say he had the nerve to collect rainwater.


As bizarre as it sounds, I guess it really shouldn’t be a surprise. We have covered numerous stories of how the government has been chipping away at the rights of land. From survival gardens being seized to the land owners in California who are being forced back onto the grid, people’s rights as land owners are being shredded by local, state and federal governments.

In the latest abuse of power, a man in Oregon has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine for collecting rainwater on his own land. Gary Harrington was convicted of nine misdemeanor crimes for filling his three man-made reservoirs with rainwater and snow runoff. The state of Oregon claims the water that fell from the sky, is owned by them and the Medford Water Commission.

Outlawing Rain Water

It just doesn’t get any crazier than this. What’s next charging us for the air that we breathe?

How we ended up in a place that allows the government to tell us what we can or can’t do on our own land is crazy in and of itself, but for the government to claim they now own the water that falls from the sky is almost beyond belief.


As unreal as it may sound, at least 9 states have made it illegal to collect rainwater on your own land. Utah, Oregon, Colorado and a number of other states have passed rainwater laws that either limit or all out ban the collection of rainwater. Apparently, it’s alright for mega corporations to take it, bottle it and then sell it to the public for profit; but if you should try to collect any for yourself – You might need a lawyer!

In this video from 2008, a Utah News Channel highlights the problem.

This issue has nothing to do with saving the environment.

In fact, a number of independent studies have all proven that letting people collect rainwater on their properties actually reduces demand from water facilities and improves conservation efforts. But therein lies the problem. Not only is this about controlling the people, but what lies at the heart of this problem seems to be money. If the government allows people to collect their own rainwater, how would the local water facilities charge the public for water?

Water has become big business. In fact, water is one of the fastest growing industries in the world today. Americans spend billions of dollars each year on bottled water – not counting the billions that go to government agencies – and this resource is quickly becoming one of the most politicized resources in the world.

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  1. July 28, 2012 at 10:01 AM
    This isn’t as nefarious as it seems. Most water laws are to protect the down stream users who have legitimate water rights. Ninja ponds often times are constructed without proper materials and no erosion control which sends sediments downstream causing contaminated water and filling up legitimate ponds with sediments. The dams are not structurally sound and can wash out in severe storms causing terrible problems downstream. Also ponds increase water loss through evaporation so people with legitimate rights downstream get less water for legitimate uses of irrigation and recreation.
    I do not work for the government but do live on a year round stream that is fed mostly through snow melt and rain, and had a similar problem with a upstream neighbor building a pond. The permitting process through the state protects downstream users from erosion problems and water theft. I live in Montana where water law may differ from Oregon but here a water right gives a person the right to use a specific amount of water and that water becomes the users property, anyone that diverts water outside the water right system is stealing property from the down stream users. The state regulating water use is one of the best uses of state authority I can think of. Otherwise the guy with the biggest hose the farthest upstream can literally destroy generations old farms below through water theft.

      • Yes, there are too many people. Our earth is overpopulated as it is, and religious schmucks and welfare-leeches continue popping out babies, thus putting more pressure on the ecosystem to provide for us in a way that it can’t handle. Case in point: there isn’t enough water, and if everyone collected rain in a barrel, farms farther downstream wouldn’t be able to irrigate and their crops would wither.

        • That’s funny, I’m pretty sure the population of the earth would fit inside the city limits of jacksonville fl. Standing room only, granted, but they would fit. If it’s crowded where you are, move! If you feel the earth is so over-crowded, why are you still on it? You wouldn’t deny life to yourself, but you would love to deny someone else what you would never willingly give up. Liberalism in a nutshell.

  2. I initially was horrified, but after some Google research and images, it sounds like he is not just capturing rainwater and the “snow runoff” is disputed to be coming out of a stream that does feed into their basin. His set up is not just a few rain barrels either. I couldn’t find a clear description of the “snow runoff” versus diversion from a near by creek to determine if the municipality had a valid argument, but I can see where one might exist. It does seem like the issue at hand was not the rain water, but the diverted/snow runoff water. It seems like that would be pretty easy to prove with one little rubber ducky – put it in your stream upstream of him, and if it ends up in his pond then the two parties need to come up with a solution. Jail seems extreme in either case.

  3. A friend mentioned something interesting when I posted this article. If the rain belongs to the city, then whenever there is damage, flooding, etc. from rain/snow, then the cost of repairing said damage would rest with the city and the municipality since the rain/snow belongs to them.

  4. Not only do I agree with what everyone else has had to say but I just want to say this is just unbelievably insane & heartbreaking. What is this world coming to? Alot of ppl collect rainwater for watering gardens. Its so much better than the water that is full of chlorine & other stuff. How the hell can they send someone to jail for collecting something that has no price. Rain is from GOD & I dont think he would approve of ppl being sent to jail for collecting something HE sent us. I pray hard for this messed up world we live in. These ppl should all be put in jail just for coming up with this law.

    • Land is from GOD too. Try finding an used piece of it to grow your food on and see what happens. Are you outraged over having to pay massive fees or go to prison just to survive on GODS earth? I bet not.

      • Thank you. I keep saying if you let them deprive someone else of their rights soon yours will be in jeapardy. And in answer to whatsisname I am offgrid and have no running water. But it would not be the first time this or that group is deprived of their right to survive. as “get a job” chick says we arent making them rich if we don’t live in their slums and buy their gmo corn and suck electric from their grid. Oops now they will say its their sunshine. As far as their air just see if anyone flies a plane through it if it isn’t their air. Now I will sit back and wait for the drone lol.

  5. I depend on rainwater to water my garden. My outdoor tap isn’t connected to the water line, and we are patiently waiting for our landlords to hook it up. Without the few buckets of rainwater, and the water collected from my dehumidifyer (about 2 1/2 gallons a day) I have to borrow water from my neighbours. They are wonderful and generous neighbours, and everyone in town pays a flat rate for water usage, so we aren’t running up their water bill, but we don’t want to be dependant on them for water.

  6. I hate to be the dissenting opinion again here, but the problem wasn’t that he was collecting rainwater, the problem was he built a series of dams, one of which was 15ft high, that was preventing water from flowing into a creek that is owned by the city of medford. Oregon law plainly states that it is illegal to build any reservoir or earthen dam that prevents the natural flow of water off of your property without getting a water use permit….which is pretty standard practice for water rights in every state in the US. Harrington Applied for the permits in 2007 and was denied, did it anyway and was given 3 years probation. After 3 years he applied again and was denied because the dams he was attempting to build were in a natural spillway acting as a tributary to the creek. He ignored the states decision and built them a second time, warranting a stiffer penalty.

    As a side note, Oregon does have a provision in this law providing exemption to collect rainwater that falls on the house or driveway, making rainwater collection perfectly legal. Which, again, is pretty standard practice in most states.

    Honestly guys, there are a lot more legitimate things to be getting upset about, we don’t need to make something out of nothing.

    • Exactly it is not like he was collecting rainwater in barrels that fell off his roof. The title of the article is misleading. He built damns and diverted the water after being denied permits.

  7. i would love to see them trying to ban me from collecting or drinking rain water, if you know your rights then you know that what is on your land is yours & gives you more entitlement than any government.

  8. They will have to kill me first before I will comply with ANY LAW that restricts me from collecting rain water. Ill collect it Ill drink it and Ill do what I want with it! And if ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT of ANY KIND wants to go to war with me over it, I will be more than happy to accommodate them.. They have NO RIGHT restricting anyone from water they do not have any control over before its in reservoirs. We have the right to the rain! The government and its agencies DO NOT HAVE ANY RIGHTS restricting us from it.. If this doesnt get you off your asses and start to rethink our future..well then I guess youre all dead people walking!!

  9. Lets us all remember this and the next time it rains and there is flood damage in that area EVERYONE should sue the crap out of the Medford Water Commission since it was their product that did all the damage. :)

  10. Yep, the water from the Colorado River does not belong to Colorado, it belongs to the Southern California Aquaduct project… downstream.
    Without an agriculture permit, you cannot place a barrel from your roof downspout to gather water for your garden or anything else…

    Time for underground cisterns with hidden / buried piping.

    • Mike, it’s time for EVERYONE to openly collect rainwater. No hiding, no nothing….if everyone disobeys, what are they going to do? Not a damn thing.


  11. It’s been “illegal” in Colorado for…well, forever now. This has NOTHING to do with ANYTHING but paying for your water, which includes taxes.

    I’ve been collecting rainwater for decades now, as do many people here. The more rainwater we use, the less our water bill is, the less taxes we pay and THAT is what it’s about.

    It’s also “illegal” to empty your washing machine in your back yard, drain your dishwater outside and bathwater outside. All of which many of us do with ZERO regard for this “law”……

    I suggest EVERYONE use rainwater as much as possible. To HELL with these bullshit bogus laws.

    When the gov’t says “You do not have a right to the water falling from the sky, the water company does” well, the government and water company can go get fucked.

    • Like! If it fell on the land I own it is a product of my land.

      I believe the individual water rights are only pertain to water in the canal or otherwise constructed irrigation system even if easement is in place.

      • If you don’t like people using the rain you see as yours (ie downstream water rights owners) get smart and move to where water does fall from the sky LOL not the arid desert of California or any other arid climate. (ie it is not an ecosystem that is ideal for heavy population density or water intensive industries)

  12. So, say in one these “illegal” states that “own” the water, my house get flooded by “their” water, can I sue them? If “their” rain comes in my open window and ruins my sofa – can I collect damages from that state? Of course not. Why? Because it’s all alot of BS by folks who own alot of guns. They like playing with their guns – that’s all.
    We have no Rights – period.

  13. Wow its unbelievable! Not no free country anymore, I’m about to move In the woods. Totally pisses me off! The rain does NOT belong to you!

  14. That’s enough to make you wonder who’s really running the show here… the government or the people… it might even be the privately owned banks operating under the entire system itself.

  15. OK definately bizzare.The ONLY thing about collecting rain water that bothers me is water pollution — you probably want to test your rain water these days, who knows what kind ofjunk might be in it.

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