People who use barrels to catch rain from their roofs breaking law, says State of Colorado

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163 Responses to “People who use barrels to catch rain from their roofs breaking law, says State of Colorado”

  1. Bevatron Repairman says:

    I am, in fact, a water lawyer. This is not at all surprising and — I dare say — is correct as a matter of law. The whole prior appropriation mechanism says that the fellow who put the water to beneficial use first gets all of that volume of water before the next guy gets any. Now, beneficial use traditionally meant agriculture, mining, domestic use, that sort of thing, but now has a number of other uses (Colorado recognizes recreational use, including the right to divert water to an off-river white water kayak course). Now, of course it seems pretty silly to say that a fellow can’t keep the water on his own property, but the rights to water are (generally) speaking a right to get water out of that river and its tributaries. Well, water that doesn’t end up in the river (gets pumped through the house and dumped into the sewer for instance) isn’t available for the guy with the senior-most water right. But the First Water Right holder gets everything, so it effects the next guy, and the next, until you run out of water in the river.

    This stuff doesn’t happen in California, because there is a general overlay of riparian use, so you get to use some amount of water that flows past your land (something, I am sure, includes rainwater on your property). This doesn’t happen in the Eastern US because they are all on a riparian system, so folks get a proportional use of the water.

    Now, I’ll leave it for you folks as a policy matter, but as the law stands this is a completely correct decision. Now, trying to changing anything in the water universe — in Colorado especially — is both dangerous and boring, so it doesn’t much happen. But this is totally consistent with the current mechanism of water rights.

  2. rijrunner1 says:

    It isn’t “it might be illegal”

    It is illegal. Its not a gray area in the law.

  3. Clif Marsiglio says:

    Its interesting, I just got back from about two weeks in overseas and I started seeing rainwater reclamation systems at the marine research stations and thought they were a good idea.

    A week in, I decided to see the country side, and *EVERY* house had them…I thought these were simply expensive eco-toy for the elite. Nope, everyone had them. It was an eye opener…these were on my list to research now that I’m back in the states. Honestly, I can’t imagine how a system like this used to do things like water the lawn or wash laundry would be a bad thing…the water doesn’t need to be purified or run through a sanitation system and this alone should solve a lot of energy needs. No need to have it transported by pipes…its already there.

    Just sounds a little too short sighted considering this water is eventually going to make it into the system anyways…

  4. JJR1971 says:

    CODEREDUK wrote above:

    “I may be way off base here, but the last time I checked a satellite image of earth, water wasn’t exactly scarce.

    When are we going to begin developing more de-salinisation technology to help alleviate a lot of these issues with water? Especially in California?”

    You are way off base; Saltwater is not scarce, but freshwater is, especially in the Western U.S.

    De-salinisation is still prohibitively expensive and not a viable solution to the growing problem of *freshwater* scarcity.

    It would be worthwhile to study the history of struggles over water resources in the 19th century that gave rise to the laws of today.

    Rainwater collection is part of the permaculture/xeriscape ethos, with its emphasis on “Re-localization”, but as others have pointed out, it does *maybe* screw others downstream; I think the law needs further revision as to what one can and cannot do with rainwater capture rather than a blanket ban on it. But then again, IANAL. I’m not overly impressed when lawyers come on BoingBoing and say “This is correct”. A good lawyer should be able to argue the legal merits of nearly any position, pro or con.

    I can sympathize with not screwing others downstream, but supporters of these kind of laws keep talking about diverting streams/ditches, which to me comes across as a bait-and-switch; We’re talking about *rainwater* collection on one’s property, quit changing the subject.

    I think there’s room for compromise; the existing law may make sense and even have some legitimacy, but it strikes me as over-broad and needs more nuance.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Abstract “Libertarian” free-market-in-my-head nerds don’t realize how tremendously boring they are.

    The property system we have is the one the bigshot property owners WANT. We’re not going to have some kind of different one where the horrible “monopolistic” corporations are gone but you, personally, are rich. The “free market” is a slogan the bigshots use to get what they want, to get rid of public funding and regulation that doesn’t happen to benefit them, and you are helping them by promoting their slogan.

  6. zuzu says:

    A regulated, free market would allow someone to start buying out everyone else’s barrels, but then face them with the option of either becoming a monopoly with publicly-agreed-upon price limits or limiting the percentage of village rain barrels they can buy out so that you can buy a few and try to compete.

    Given Public Choice Theory and regulatory capture, it’s actually the regulated markets that become the most coercive in inflating price.

    An unregulated market would then allow someone to start buying out everyone else’s barrels, coercing the holdouts, and then selling water to everyone at an inflated price.

    If the price exceeds that of importing it, or retrieving water through some other means, then the “natural monopoly” will be broken and competition will resume.

    It’s virtually impossible for a business to secure a monopoly without government complicity.

  7. t3knomanser says:

    @RIJRunner1:

    Exactly. This essentially boils down to environmental impact problems.

    Here’s another example that makes more sense to people. You own a swath of land and a river crosses through it. Despite the fact that you “own” this section of the river, you do not have the privilege of being able to damn or divert the river, nor may you just dump whatever you like willy nilly in it. There are zoning regulations, environmental impact regulations, etc.

    And the reasons become obvious when we look at it in terms of a stream. The reality is that people downstream are dependent upon the continual flow of water. For drinking, irrigation, washing, whatever. By simply having the privilege of being upstream from them, you control their destiny.

    To please the anarchist in all of us, I’m certain that, in absence of a government, a system would arise to resolve conflicts over the water supply, but since we exist in a reality where there is a government, this is one of the few cases where intervention is justified.

  8. Inkstain says:

    “Inkstain and others, do you recognize that the government is rarely as efficient as private markets?”

    Sort of. I recognize that the market is usually more efficient than government intervention. It’s like Netwonian physics: good enough for day-to-day use, but not infallible.

    I think that the cases where the markets are inefficient or, even better, where they produce undesirable results despite their efficiency, are far more common than people raised on American rah-rahism in the post-Cold War era are likely to admit.

  9. Anonymous says:

    @Inkstain–
    Because you’re “not buying it”–

    You don’t own it!

    Surprised no-one else brought up the Simpsons episode where Burns got shot…what with putting up the big sunshade so folks would HAVE to buy his electricity.

  10. zuzu says:

    Suddenly, no runoff reaches the ditch and the farm is put out of business.. Is that fair?

    That farm was depending on a positive externality.

    The risk of losing its “free riding” should be incorporated into its business model.

  11. zuzu says:

    No. The government IS the people.

    No, that’s a fantasy.

    Government is just the people who work within the organization (politicians, clerks, postal workers, IRS agents, forest rangers, etc.), just like Microsoft is only the people who work there, and Dow Chemical is only the people who work there, etc.

    It’s just an organization — albeit the one with the most and biggest guns. So, actually, that makes them the biggest gang.

    The CBC put out an (imho) excellent documentary titled ‘The Corporation’. One of the segments covers when Bechtel did this in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Add it to your Net Flix queue today!

    Or just download it.

    Has nobody made a Dune reference yet?

    I know, there never seemed to be the right context to mention windtraps.

    It is illegal. Its not a gray area in the law.

    It’s not illegal until you get caught. ;)

    No one owns anything unless they have “merely filed paperwork with the government.” Otherwise the guy with the guns can just take it all.

    So the only reason you’re not a slave isn’t because of some kind of inalienable right, but just because the government you happen to be a citizen of says so?

    See, the thing about the Bill of Rights in the United States was that it’s supposed to merely recognize natural rights, not grant them — that’s not a power that any government has.

    That said, I think we should do this because I think it will lead to results I like, not because of some abstract argument from first principles.

    That’s the problem with normative analysis. (i.e. “truthiness”) You can’t just pick the results you like best; you have to recognize the ones that are most accurate (or logically consistent).

    Otherwise, I say that ice cream for dinner is healthy, the sun revolves around the earth, and when you die you actually live forever in a magical realm called “heaven”.

  12. rijrunner1 says:

    So, a product required for people to *live* can be bid up?

    A price set for affluent people to water their lawns might be higher than for poorer people can afford.

    Now.. you’re the one talking about price fixing? That’s your second statement there.

    You simply seem want everything to be for the richest or whatever is the most convenient for your own use. No cooperation. No making allowances for other people or anyone else’s needs.

  13. mdh says:

    Water should go to those most willing to pay.

    Whoa there bub. That’s a disgustingly antisocial attitude you’re promulgating.

  14. zuzu says:

    I’m certain that, in absence of a government, a system would arise to resolve conflicts over the water supply, but since we exist in a reality where there is a government, this is one of the few cases where intervention is justified.

    Bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy?

    That’s a tautological justification.

  15. MollyMaguire says:

    @1 said it all – at least in this case, where the collectors use the water to irrigate their garden. Even most of the water that ends up in their veggies eventually makes it’s way back into the cycle (an amendment to the law could read that private irrigators must expel all of their human waste onto their own land – thereby closing the loop). But one point I would make is that the water laws are only a clunky solution to the fact that you got too gddmnd many people living where they shouldn’t and using water in an unsustainable way. To all of those who have commented here that collecting rainwater smacks disagreeably of property rights: I expect that you also make similar comments on bb posts about Maker and DIY culture?

  16. Inkstain says:

    “You own it until you trade it away.”

    I’m more worried about how someone started owning it to begin with.

    They squatted on some land, threatened to shoot anybody who didn’t agree that it was theirs, and got together with some other squatters and agreed that this was a fair system.

    Now 10 generations later, I’m supposed to shut up and accept that property rights are some sacred matter because my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents didn’t think of it and they did.

    Not buying it.

  17. zax says:

    After reading a bunch of the comments here I was wondering a couple of things…

    When does the water belong to somebody?

    When it leaves the cloud?
    While it is falling?
    When it hits the ground?

    Do the clouds belong to somebody?

    Who owns the water as it is evaporating and becoming a cloud?

    Can I own the water cycle?
    Can I buy cloud rights?

    People that own land…can they sue for damages to the land from the minerals removed by water as it drains through?

    :)

  18. zuzu says:

    Whoa there bub. That’s a disgustingly antisocial attitude you’re promulgating.

    Please explain why you consider that “disgustingly antisocial”.

    So, a product required for people to *live* can be bid up?

    Just like food, housing, clothing, heat, electricity, etc? Yes. Demand exceeds supply for all of those, or else they would be free.

    No cooperation. No making allowances for other people or anyone else’s needs.

    Cooperation is facilitated through price signals for distributed coordination (i.e. spontaneous order / emergence).

  19. Anonymous says:

    ZUZU! Why can’t the guy with the most guns take it all? More significantly, why won’t you answer that question?! You have an answer for most everything else…

  20. jowlsey says:

    The CBC put out an (imho) excellent documentary titled ‘The Corporation’. One of the segments covers when Bechtel did this in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Add it to your Net Flix queue today!

    http://www.netflix.com/Movie/The_Corporation/60034810?lnkctr=srchrd-sr&strkid=2133491498_0_0

  21. mikefinch says:

    “Ths lw s dtc.”

    N – YR dtc. Thnk bt WHY ths lw s n plc – Cn y fr nc thnk tht smn mght nt b cllctng t fr prsnl s? 55 gllns s dffrnt frm 55,000 gllns. Jst bcs Y r rspnsbl ndvdl dsn’t mn w cn d wy wth lws md t kp THR ppl frm bng sshls.

    Y hpps mk m sck.

  22. rijrunner1 says:

    Exactly how do you think water gets into irrigation ditches?

    Rain falls. Runs off into the watershed and is diverted into those ditches.

    Colorado tracks *all* water. The average rainfall is part of the allocated water. Its accounted for in terms of planning and coordination. Water in a barrel in your yard isn’t available to the person who needs it at the time that person can pull out their water allotment. Multiply that by a bunch of others pulling water, and that is a rather serious issue.

    Its not changing the subject. Water does not magically appear. It comes into the watershed from several known sources, of which rainfall is one. You are diverting water from reaching those ditches. That depletes the amount available at that time for people who have prior rights.

    It could be more nuanced and it really is a lot more nuanced than anyone on here has even thought to look into. All water in Colorado is a managed resource. That’s the core underlying principle at work here. Been in play since 1876. It does not matter whether the water comes from rain or from runoff in the mountains. (Wells are also covered, but have different criteria).

  23. Takuan says:

    just hide the barrels

  24. zuzu says:

    But one point I would make is that the water laws are only a clunky solution to the fact that you got too gddmnd many people living where they shouldn’t and using water in an unsustainable way.

    Exactly! Using laws instead of prices allows people to ignore reality (at their own eventual peril).

  25. Inkstain says:

    You are just repeating libertarian market principles endlessly.

    You aren’t explaining *why* that’s a better system.

  26. Takuan says:

    mike, could you try to be just slightly less offensive?

  27. t3knomanser says:

    @Zuzu: Tautological? Not in the least. An established feature of governments is conflict mediation between non-governmental entities, up to and including resource management, especially over contending access.

    If you deny the entire validity of governments, as I do (I’m also opposed to anarchism as well- you just can’t please me), that’s an entirely different debate. Governments exist and this is clearly within the established domain of government operation.

  28. t3knomanser says:

    @Inkstain: Where do you live? I want your computer.

  29. rijrunner1 says:

    It was dependent on an established and maintained usage.

    Its not like water rights are “free”. You have to purchase them.

    Can I put in a rendering plant next to a housing development? Can I dump anything into the watershed causing any damage I choose?

    Face it, almost every activity is dependent on other people respecting your rights enough to allow you to continue operations.

    There is no business model that has “core requirement is no longer available”. That properly is known as bankruptcy law, not water law.

    A housing development that is new does not have the right to put a long term business or operation out of business by its very existence. If housing developments, in some areas, can reject new airports, new garbage dumps, or other activities which impact them, then why would not the farms also have similar laws in place to protect their livelihood?

  30. Tirjasdyn says:

    This is a state that charges you in case there is a flood some where (I’m not kidding, in Denver you get a separate bill for it, other places it’s worked into the water bill).

    This is the state where towns sue each other for stealing snowfall.

    This is the state were no one owns any water. :)

  31. The Lizardman says:

    All that exists must be owned.

  32. BoulderPhil says:

    To add to the oddness, you actually CAN collect rainwater in Colorado, as long as the vessel you collect it in has a tiny hole in the bottom!

    No kidding.

  33. zuzu says:

    @49 Inkstain

    The Homestead principle in law is the concept that one can gain ownership of a property that currently has no owner by using that property.

  34. zuzu says:

    You aren’t explaining *why* that’s a better system.

    Without price signals, producers and consumers cannot coordinate, which leads to shortages. (Under-production and over-consumption.)

    Frequent mandates by water authorities for rationing exemplify this misallocation of resources towards unsustainable use, ala the tragedy of the commons.

  35. Purly says:

    She uses rain from her gutters to water a vegetable garden? I don’t know what I think about that. I mean, beyond the question of whether the rain is acidic, that water has been dripping down her rooftop, onto whatever metal and paint her gutters are made of, hopefully not touching any arsenic laden pressurized wood, and then she’s putting it into her vegetable garden. If there are any traces of harmful chemical in the mix, they will be absorbed into the vegetation of her garden. In the case of arsenic it could take years before it kills her, but other chemicals could just cause cancer.

  36. Inkstain says:

    Okay, so the principle has a name. Good for it.

    That doesn’t make it any less palatable to me.

  37. lava says:

    This is stupid. The water they gather from the roof is spread on the property and enters the aquifers minus what the plants drink. The use of this water offsets using water from the public utility. Its not like its being loaded on a truck and shipped out of the region…

  38. Inkstain says:

    or rather, more palatable

  39. webmonkees says:

    “Every time you go to the lavatory it is vitally important to get a receipt.”

    Where I’m at, the TVA ‘owns’ and/or regulates the water system. if you own riverside property, you can build a dock up to x feet and no more. Can’t divert the water, of course, but what really gets me is the ‘can’t run a turbine generator’ part.

    Apparently inducing friction into the watershed causes some problem.

    facts, regulations and physical properties of matter subject to differentiation from what I just said.

  40. bardfinn says:

    Heya!

    Here is the first scholarly article I hit on google by typing in “water rights in Texas” as a search; Here is the first paragraph (The author has a Ph.D. in Geography and a J.D. in Law:

    “Water rights law determines the extent to
    which an individual can use the water which runs
    across, underlies, or moves through the
    atmosphere above his property. The resultant
    largely invisible institutional structure is perhaps the most significant obstacle to improved water resources management and conservation.
    ” [Emphasis Mine]

    I live in Texas, and there are plenty of shenanigans pulled in Texas with respect to water rights. Texas has precisely one — that’s 1 with absolutely zero zeroes following it — natural lake, Caddo; Today, there are over 6,300 lakes in Texas, almost all of which exist to retain rainfall for the purposes of farming and irrigation and drinking water, all man-made reservoirs.

  41. acipolone says:

    @25

    A million people putting out 50 gallon barrels is 50 million gallons of water that does not reach the watershed and won’t be available anywhere else.

    But isn’t that only assuming that they are taking the water and hoarding it? As the article says, they were using it for their garden, which would put it right back into the ground and eventually back into the watershed.

    I can understand a law like this being used against commercial entities, but for a private, residential garden?

    So if my clothes are soaked with rain, am I obligated to wring them out outside so it goes back to the ground? Or can I stick it in the dryer? Is sticking it the dryer considered destruction of private property, since “ownership” was already defined? If I have a bird bath in the yard, do I have to empty it after each rain storm and refill it with water from the hose? If my pool is covered and the tarp retains a small puddle of water, am I committing a criminal act by letting it sit there? Should I be taxed for my garden, since the vegetables and flowers (and grass, too) will likely use up some of the rain that falls?

    I just think this raises a whole slew of potentially bizarre and unnecessary legal situations.

  42. bardfinn says:

    “Without price signals, producers and consumers cannot coordinate, which leads to shortages. (Under-production”

    I’ll get to work building large stock market tickers for the clouds, so they know how to coordinate rainfall to better the market’s exploitation.

  43. Anonymous says:

    When I was younger, we collected all of our water in a cistern – for bathing, drinking, cooking, everything. This was our only water source.

    Why does someone further downstream deserve it more than me if I collect it myself and I need it?

    This law is idiotic.

  44. zuzu says:

    Tautological? Not in the least. An established feature of governments is conflict mediation between non-governmental entities, up to and including resource management, especially over contending access.

    I meant “tautological” in the sense that I read that argument as “because government exists, we need government action”.

    Its not like water rights are “free”. You have to purchase them.

    Price has nothing to do with the validity of “water rights”. This isn’t some Objectivist fantasy where everything needs a price tag “just because”.

    Can I dump anything into the watershed causing any damage I choose?

    No, because that’s called property damage.

    Can I put in a rendering plant next to a housing development?

    Sure, so long as your neighbors don’t file a nuisance tort.

    (Hopefully you don’t have jackass neighbors complaining about your therapy pony.)

    A housing development that is new does not have the right to put a long term business or operation out of business by its very existence.

    Tell that to the horse and buggy manufacturers once the automotive industry was created.

  45. Ugly Canuck says:

    Yeah Zuzu there was nada prior to the US Constitution and its (magical?) insight into which ‘rights” are “natural” and which aren’t: like the right to own slaves? or to force others to recognize your “natural” right so to do, by the use of armed force?
    If not, why not? Is perhaps the price too high for these “freedoms”?
    Unsurprisingly, most of the world does not hold the US Constitution in the same regard as Americans do.

    Water is a scarce resource in some places: real blood has been shed over it.
    Johnny-come-latelys ought not to swim in the locals’ soup: as bevatron put it above, changing what has accreted locally as to water laws over time, by sometimes violent politics, is both dangerous and boring.
    Water management is (and always has and will forever be) a local issue: and it shall similarly always be a political issue requiring discussion and agreement and some compromises: no “magic market principles” will resolve these unique and local conflicts over these scarce and necessary resources, a priori.
    Nor is it reasonable to expect that the immense variety of water shed zones and types to be found on this ever-changing globe is amenable to only one “good” way of getting the things done which must needs be done by any functioning water-supply system: meet human needs. Think of the contrast between the Ancient Chinese and Roman styles of hydrological engineering, or the examples of the advanced ancient Persian or Hopi or Sri Lankian water collection and distribution systems: all served the needs of their inhabitants well. (Pun intended)
    Not that there was no room for improvement in all of those systems, nor in the present systems in use: but I suspect that all such improvements, like most in engineering, will prove to be marginal and gradual in nature, rather than radical.
    IMO those Ag+Industrial users ought to tighten up on their losses from evaporation,like from canals, FWIW.

  46. zuzu says:

    I’ll get to work building large stock market tickers for the clouds, so they know how to coordinate rainfall to better the market’s exploitation.

    I’m certain that clouds have no concept of people or care about them in any way. So what’s your point, exactly?

  47. Tron says:

    Cry me a river, folks.

    Or can you get fined for that too?

  48. Karen M says:

    Not sure if anybody not from the Southwest realizes, but water rights and property rights are two entirely different things. One can own a piece of land and not the water that runs underneath. Really. You have to buy those separately. I know that’s the case in NM, and it’s probably heading that way here in CO if it’s not already.

    Fun water-related fact: we here in northeastern CO are rapidly heading toward severe drought conditions, and have had several days of “fire danger alerts”. It’s March. Just can’t wait until summer, I tell you…

  49. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    In Los Angeles, 25% of the electrical power generated is used to move water from one place to another. I don’t know what the percentage is in Colorado, but I assume it’s similar. So the state of Colorado is telling these people who want to use rain water to water their gardens that they have to allow it to run downslope and then pay to have it pumped back up to their property.

  50. codereduk says:

    I may be way off base here, but the last time I checked a satellite image of earth, water wasn’t exactly scarce.

    When are we going to begin developing more desalinisation technology to help alleviate a lot of these issues with water? Especially in California?

  51. Inkstain says:

    “Tell that to the horse and buggy manufacturers once the automotive industry was created.”

    I know that’s the standard free-market response, but I don’t see how competition driving a competitor out is the same as physically cutting someone off.

  52. angryhippo says:

    #73: “Yes. California is a water hog, because they irrigate the desert. It’s astonishingly stupid, and it’s a primary factor in the fires there too, because those (dried) plants shouldn’t have grown there (environmentally) to begin with. It’s a desert!”

    Any irrigation there is done for landscaping and/or farming. Do you really think that the wildfires there are burning non-native plant life that SoCal people grow and irrigate in the hills? Yes, it is a desert. But deserts have their own fauna and it burns just as well.

  53. duus says:

    If others own the rainwater, then are they not littering when it rains? If I owned cash and threw it onto someones property, wouldn’t I be essentially abandoning my property rights over that cash?

  54. GregLondon says:

    Just like Soviet economic planning.

    This slippery slope argument brought to you by the free-market anarchist’s cookbook (FMAC). Our recipes will blow up in your face if you actually try them, but fuck it, people keep buying the book!

  55. rijrunner1 says:

    No. Kidding about the drought. Is going to be a very bad year this year.

    Hope they put in the lawn watering restrictions soon.

  56. Anonymous says:

    yep ZUZU isn’t answering certain criticisms — should I be surprised?

  57. yrogerg says:

    Only those physical artifacts which meet the criteria of rivalry and excludability qualify as property.

    Agreed. Unfortunately, further up-thread:

    Kinda funny that the LA Times is reporting this. CA is the largest consumer of water under this concept of prior appropriation. They, in fact, pull so much water out of the Colorado River, that it no longer reaches the Baja.

    Rival in consumption? Check.
    Excludable? Check.

    Don’t you agree?

  58. RaptorOne says:

    Ok…so you collect your barrel of rain…what do you do with it? Water your garden? Wash your car? Where does that water go when you’re done with it? Back into the ground…so…yeah…dumb.

  59. zuzu says:

    I know that’s the standard free-market response, but I don’t see how competition driving a competitor out is the same as physically cutting someone off.

    Because it doesn’t matter. It’s not like car companies and buggy companies were thinking about how they directly compete in the personal conveyance market. The product or service that you provide as a business could be obsoleted by something totally outside your expected context.

    The point remains was that a farm was “free riding” on a positive externality, and when that free ride stopped, they couldn’t afford to source their water from anywhere else, so they went out of business.

    Just because it’s a “farm” and “water” (and “old”), compared to any other enterprise where a particular comparative advantage has been lost, is not significant.

  60. rijrunner1 says:

    “Without price signals, producers and consumers cannot coordinate, which leads to shortages. (Under-production and over-consumption.) ”

    Flat out….

    You have no concept of how the current system works or what it does.

    They coordinate water year round. They monitor it. They monitor the amount of snow in the mountains. The monitor the amount of water in the reservoirs. They monitor the amount of run-off. They monitor the amount of water in the streams and rivers and irrigation ditches.

    THE ENTIRE CONCEPT OF WATER RIGHTS IS COORDINATION OF THOSE RESOURCES.

    There is no aspect of the “there is no way to coordinate” part of your statement that is even remotely accurate. It is – on its very face – false. They have using this system you are arguing against for well over a century to do exactly what you claim is impossible.

  61. bardfinn says:

    I think we’re looking at this entirely the wrong way.

    The human body is 80% water, right?

    We load up several cargo planes with AIG-&-other-responsible-for-the-collapse finance executives and push them out of the plane over Colorado; Then, they effectively belong to Wyoming, and can buy the water in their bodies back from the government.

    For this to work, it’s important that they not have parachutes.

    This. Is. Perfection.

  62. Karen M says:

    #63/Mark Frauenfelder: Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they’re saying, as best as I can make out. The different municipalities/water districts sure are saying that.

    I would say whether or not I have a barrel myself, but I wouldn’t want to either lie or have a visit from the water department today.

  63. zuzu says:

    Don’t you agree?

    Yes. California is a water hog, because they irrigate the desert. It’s astonishingly stupid, and it’s a primary factor in the fires there too, because those (dried) plants shouldn’t have grown there (environmentally) to begin with. It’s a desert!

    Hope they put in the lawn watering restrictions soon.

    No, they just need to raise prices according to supply and demand.

  64. Anonymous says:

    The arguments here seem strange to me, generally; those who argue there is something socially relevant occurring are truly out there. The notion that the total available water is somehow at risk here, and that by taking water into a barrel one is taking it “out” of the watershed is bizarrely ignorant.

    What exactly do you suppose they’re doing with the water once it’s in the barrel? Shipping it via rocket to another planet? The first law of thermodynamics proves you wrong. Just saving the water locally for use later DOES NOT take the water out of the watershed, nor does it deny anybody water. It simply changes WHEN the water enters into the watershed… water is kind of nice that way. It can be reused, over and over again.

    The notion that catching water IN ANY WAY affects the legal water rights doesn’t hold up, unless the catcher is somehow shipping the water out of the watershed. Which, I’d hazard to guess, would only be possible under remarkable economic conditions (I notice that oil countries in barren areas won’t accept water yet as payment for oil ~ could happen, though, I guess). Otherwise, catching water only timeshifts its usage for the benefit of the local catcher; timeshifting for your own purposes of enjoyment has been upheld by the Supreme Court, no?

    I’m even less dazzled by the silly economic argument that the water belongs to everyone. Really? Let’s try that approach with other natural commodities… “hey! You punks up in Oregon! Just ’cause you happen to live in an area where trees are more common doesn’t mean you’re allowed to harvest them for your own profits! You have to share with everyone!!” If rain happens to fall on your house in larger amounts than elsewhere, why does the accident of downhill flow “justify” someone else’s rights to that water? If Mother Nature switches the riverbed in a storm, can we sue her for abrogation of the terms of the implied contract? Simply put, simply because you DO get water from the river, doesn’t mean you are OWED water from the river. Those are forever separated by the vagaries of chance.

    Finally, the claims of the state government about the way in which the individual is stealing someone else’s water is just plain silly. The Colorado River (note: grew up in the NW ~ land of rain; currently reside in LA) peters out well before it gets to the pacific (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_River_Delta)
    but I guess the water rights of the Mexicans don’t count, eh? Or is it just that they lack the political capacity to shove their “rights” down the throats of others? In a post AIG world, I hate to counsel ethics, as it seems they are in rather short supply, but: in this case, the arguments against local water use don’t hold, well, water.

    Thanks for your time,

    Lanval

  65. Moriarty says:

    #45: That’s actually a very good analogy (or really, barely an analogy, since it’s looking at a different point in the same process), and thanks for that. Screwing with the water cycle, even on your own land, is an externality, just like dumping stuff in a river. That’s true even if what eventually happens to that water is unjust (which it probably is). As such, the public as a whole has a right to regulate those externalities. Still, though, this particular regulation is a pretty bad one, since it apparently doesn’t distinguish between diverting the water to somewhere else entirely or merely detaining it for a few days before you send it back on its original path.

    So, my take is bad law, but legitimate law.

  66. mdh says:

    From the post: “We get into a very detailed accounting on every little drop.”

    I hereby nominate Doug Kemper to head the SEC.

  67. zuzu says:

    They coordinate water year round. They monitor it. They monitor the amount of snow in the mountains. The monitor the amount of water in the reservoirs. They monitor the amount of run-off. They monitor the amount of water in the streams and rivers and irrigation ditches.

    Just like Soviet economic planning.

  68. NtroP says:

    This has absolutely nothing to do with keeping water from others “down stream”. What this has to do with is money for the utilities. If you water your lawn with rainwater that you collected you aren’t paying the utilities for water from the hose.

    It’s loss of revenue, plain and simple. Telling someone they have to let water drain off their roof and into the storm drain rather than redirecting it onto their lawn is so ridiculous it’s almost criminal. The fact that it might “pool temporarily” in a barrel or other container until it can be applied in a timely and judicious manner makes no difference.

    They aren’t damming up a stream. They aren’t drilling into the shared aquifer. They are catching rain water that fell on their roof. Should people be forced to put a roof over their lawns to make sure no rain gets directly used, but instead goes into the “collective” gutter and re-processed and re-purchased to water the lawn at tremendous carbon costs in the process. Collecting, treating and distributing the water takes a lot of energy at every step of the way.

    Some pencil-necked, bureaucratic, moron came up with this ridiculous idea. If he steps foot onto my property he’ll have a backside full of buckshot for an answer. For any of you who don’t believe in property rights, please leave me the address of whichever commune or hostel you’re staying at so I can pick through “our” stuff and see if there’s anything I like. Feel free to do the same at my home – I’ve got plenty of buckshot for the lot of you – now GET OFF MY LAWN!

  69. bassburner says:

    @15

    “The only way someone could possibly leverage raincollection for evil ends would be if they bought all the land that water falls on, and divert it into a monopolistic underground storage bin. and then charge you to drink.”

    That’s what they’ve implemented, if you have city water, and they’re trying to prevent their monopoly from breaking up.

  70. jfrancis says:

    Can I sue the water owners if they fail to prevent their water from wetting my house?

  71. Inkstain says:

    “The point remains was that a farm was “free riding” on a positive externality, and when that free ride stopped, they couldn’t afford to source their water from anywhere else, so they went out of business.”

    Yes, that’s the explanation.

    It’s not an argument to relist what happened according to libertarian market principles, complete with links from wikipedia.

    I’m asking why I should accept that happening was a good thing. There’s a clear reason why transitioning from horse and buggy to cars was. Why is this? I’m not taking it as an article of faith that anything produced by competition is inherently better.

  72. bardfinn says:

    I’ve been in Colorado twice in my adult life. The first time, in Fruita, I stood outside in a thundering torrential downpour and got soaked to the skin – I then promptly stood underneath a picnic shelter (corrugated metal roof) and let the wind (the wind generated by the torrential thundering rainstorm still coming down all around me) blow over me. Within ten minutes I was once again dry to the skin. Even during a rainstorm the humidity was so low that the water that soaked into my clothes wasn’t safe. I’m told that much of Colorado is that way and that the only really reliable way for water to collect and not immediately be evaporated into the thirsty atmosphere is for it to be frozen solid as ice or snow.

    So, I think the governmental water rights system in place in these Western states has a definite utility, in that water really is scarce there and there has been an historically pressing need to collect and secure the rainwater falling there, and the best way to do that was handled on an economy of scale. I think also that the law need to be amended in these localities to provide volume exemptions per person per household for capture of rainfall for personal use, so that people don’t have to effectively buy their air and sunshine from a corporation.

  73. bardfinn says:

    MDH @#75: That what I’m talking about, right there! How can we as a society benefit from the realities of this situation, preferably to the chagrin of greedy jackasses?

  74. hlehmann2 says:

    This is very, very interesting. I guess I just took the ideas of rain-barralls at face value, but if individual households are allowed to capture rainwater what’s to stop big business from doing the same in a more effective and overall damaging way?

    Why shouldn’t big businesses be allowed to collect rain, as long as it falls on their own property? What are they going to do, hoard it in ever bigger tanks, preventing it from ever going back into the aquifer? As long as it gets used on that site, whether for washing cars, watering plants, filling a pool, it’ll eventually just go back into the same aquifer or back into the same clouds that dropped it the first time. I live in the arid southwest. If someone doesn’t want me to collect rainwater that falls on my property, then they should stop letting it fall on my property to begin with.

  75. zuzu says:

    There’s a clear reason why transitioning from horse and buggy to cars was.

    Some people concerned with anthropogenic CO2 production overloading atmospheric storage in the carbon cycle and amplifying the greenhouse effect (i.e. global warming / climate change) would likely disagree with that.

  76. Inkstain says:

    “I think also that the law need to be amended in these localities to provide volume exemptions per person per household for capture of rainfall for personal use, so that people don’t have to effectively buy their air and sunshine from a corporation.”

    That, to me, is a much more effective argument than merely appealing to libertarian principles. It’s practical and addresses the realities on the ground.

  77. rijrunner1 says:

    No.. Just like western water coordination.

    The same system that has been in place since about 1876 legislatively in Colorado and earlier in local agreements.

    Your argument for price being *necessary* for coordination is flat out false. It isn’t. Its just another system and one you have made absolutely no case for.

  78. mdh says:

    #10 – Because if enough people start collecting the water that falls on their property, a lot of people down the line don’t have enough.

    That is either an incorrect guess or bull-ca-ca promulgated by the water authority.

    #12 – but if individual households are allowed to capture rainwater what’s to stop big business from doing the same in a more effective and overall damaging way?

    Um…. That’s exactly what’s already going on here. Water IS big business in the west.

  79. me, of course says:

    @rijrunner1 said:

    “If you let the water run off, it gets into the municipal water system. Then, it is available when you turn on your faucet and you pour out the exact amount you need. But, caching it? Never gets into the water system. People downstream never get any water. You decrease the amount getting into the watershed, then you still pull out water from the water system for most of your daily needs.”

    Are you retarded? All your arguments are so stupid, vapid, fascist and immoral it is mind boggling! How is it that water captured in a vessel and then used to irrigate land no longer gets into the water system?

    All the governments in the world supported by all the Supreme Courts doesn’t make a law morally correct. Water is an inalienable human right. You and others claim that water rights were sold, and hence, this is OK. Well, I didn’t sell my water rights. Some fascist government sold them for me and then told me I have to abide by their decision or men with guns will come and force me.

    The rights to that water cannot be bought or sold. It’s that simple. It falls from the sky and you are free to use it. You cannot horde it or commercialize it, of course, but you can use it. And, since your usage will put it right back into the cycle, it’s not a problem!!!

    You said: “I live in Colorado right at the edge of some very dry terrain.” Again, common sense time; How about instead of foisting your communist ideas on everyone around you, you MOVE THE HELL OUT OF THE DESERT if you don’t like being short of water!!!!!!!.

    And what next? Since LA is smog enshrouded, can they sue Arizona residents because inhaling the air deprives California of that precious, breathable resource?

    Good God, people like you are a scourge on the earth.

  80. Antinous / Moderator says:

    You are just repeating libertarian market principles endlessly.

    Heh.

  81. WeightedCompanionCube says:

    It ends up in the ground sooner or later anyway, doesn’t it?

  82. zuzu says:

    That, to me, is a much more effective argument than merely appealing to libertarian principles. It’s practical and addresses the realities on the ground.

    With regard to “addressing the realities on the ground”, beware of What is Seen and What is Unseen.

  83. Roast Beef says:

    Has nobody made a Dune reference yet?

    I am disappointed in you people.

  84. terra78 says:

    If people would quit drinking bottled water (which takes 3-4 times the amount of water to make the bottle as actually goes into the bottle) this wouldn’t be a problem.

    It takes less than 5 minutes for my rain barrel to fill up, and we don’t end up using the whole barrel to water plants and grass all summer.
    While the “save it for municipal system” is understandable, people would use their faucet water to water their plants, so let them just collect their 50 gallons and get over it.

    And quit drinking/selling bottled water.

  85. mdh says:

    I know that’s the standard free-market response, but I don’t see how competition driving a competitor out is the same as physically cutting someone off.

    Physically cutting someone off* is driving a competitor out.

    *however accomplished – either through force of law or force of lawlessness.

  86. Inkstain says:

    “If he steps foot onto my property he’ll have a backside full of buckshot for an answer. For any of you who don’t believe in property rights, please leave me the address of whichever commune or hostel you’re staying at so I can pick through “our” stuff and see if there’s anything I like. Feel free to do the same at my home – I’ve got plenty of buckshot for the lot of you – now GET OFF MY LAWN!”

    You didn’t even have the guts to follow through with it for an entire paragraph. What a shock.

  87. Inkstain says:

    The general idea doesn’t bother me. It’s a public good. I’m tired of the entire concept of property rights in general.

    But as practiced, I doubt it really benefits the public.

  88. Nevadan says:

    RIJRUNNER1 is among the few here who have it right … the water law in Colorado and other western states is a complicated, long-standing balance. People pay for the right to use surface water on a cubic-feet-per-second basis, to well water at certain capacity, to store water on an acre-feet basis, and to divert water at a specific location for specific durations. How they may use that water differs greatly over whether it is a municipal right or an agricultural right. They also get credit for the water returned to the system after their use, which also differs by the type of right they own.
    The reason this story seems ridiculous, or even newsworthy, is the small amount of water described — a rainbarrel. But enlarge the example to a pond, a reservoir, a cistern, or a million rainbarrels, and it’s obvious why the law exists.
    To store and use that water on your own property is to deny the rights owners downstream — and there could be dozens or hundreds of them — their right to use the water.
    One poster suggested everyone be guaranteed an amount they could gather on their own property for personal use. That would be fine, but that right would be junior to everyone else who already owns a priority in the system. You might be the first person to see the water, but you’d be the last person with the right to use it. If there was enough water for everyone else in the system to be satisfied — and the Colorado River is far, far overappropriated — then you could legally use your rainbarrel of water.

  89. ianchowmiller says:

    Ummmmmm….. does this mean when my son sticks out his tongue to catch a rain drop he should be arrested?

  90. fontgoddess says:

    Western water law is very complicated and interesting. The upshot is that water is owned on a first come, first served basis. Example: most of Wyoming’s water is owned by Colorado and Nebraska. We can’t keep more than our share because the people down river got there first.

  91. TheDailySpank says:

    When I first read this, all I could think of was Spaceballs. Before you know it, you too will be breathing air from a can. It’s bad enough that we’ve already bottle all the water.

  92. rijrunner1 says:

    Criminy. Not a single person on here has even made the most cursory examination of how this works.

    Farmers do not have the right to pull water whenever they need it. Same applies to anyone else with water rights.

    Farms, for example, with even the highest classification based on prior use are only allowed to pull out water during designated dates or events.

    So.. an example, along an irrigation ditch, you have 5 farms. Farm A had lower rights. Farms B and C have the highest rights. Farms D and E have middling rights.

    Now, on the 1st of April through the 30th of April, farms B and C are allowed to withdraw up to – but not over – their allowances, which they are allowed to divert into their own cachement system. Then, D and E are allowed to pull out their water on their schedule. Then, Farm A. If the aggregate total of water required by A, D, and E is less than the amount of water flowing in the ditch, then they can draw the water concurrently. But, at no point can you draw outside the allocated amount of time and at no point can you draw out an amount that would impact the person with higher rights. And, at no point can you draw over the amount you have been allocated.

    Now, here’s the catch. All the home owners along the ditch have put out rain barrels. April is a rainy (and snowy) month. Normally, that ditch would collect and transport 500,000 gallons of water after a rainstorm. But, instead. 1000 people have put in 50 gallon barrels, cutting down the total of water in that ditch by 10%.

    Even if you dump that water right into the ditch in July.. none of the farms along that are legally allowed to touch it *either*. Their claims are not the highest claims outside their respective windows to cache water.

    A bunch of people on here seem to be applying rules and a system that are not in existence in Colorado and are basing all sorts of arguments on false assumptions.

    Water Rights are not free. At some point, they have been purchased. The earliest generation of water rights were gained by people who built the irrigations systems in the first place. Systems which are crucial to the entire water system used by everyone.

  93. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Maybe this is a reason to stay in Michigan. We’re the Kuwait of fresh water.

  94. Giovanni says:

    A lot of states of laws very similar to this. Its the same in Utah. Someone recently a car dealership was trying to use rainwater to clean cars (thought they’d be green) but was stopped.

    http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=4001252

  95. Stephen says:

    I think this is very sinister. I don’t have the right to drink water that falls on my property? What the hell is that? If you don’t believe in property rights, why can’t I drink the water I collect? If you do believe in property rights, when did I sign away the rights to the air and water on my property? This is a step toward privatizing drinking water!

  96. dainel says:

    Only the places that are really short on water are doing this. The sad thing is, what they are doing is just wasting more of the water.

    If you stop people from saving rain water for their vegetable garden or to wash their car, they have to get it from the pipe. Each drop of water from the pipe costs much more in rain water. Before the water got to the pipe, much of it had already been lost in leakage, treatment, evaporation.

    Switch from using treated pipe water to (temporarily) cached rain water, and you reduce water usage. Go the other direction, and you increase total water usage (and shortage) for the whole community.

  97. zuzu says:

    Water Rights are not free. At some point, they have been purchased. The earliest generation of water rights were gained by people who built the irrigations systems in the first place. Systems which are crucial to the entire water system used by everyone.

    Again, “water rights are not free” has no bearing on the issue. Just because something costs you money doesn’t magically make it acceptable.

    I think the question being asked is, why isn’t the water just being bought and sold in gallons per dollar like any other commodity?

    Why such a convoluted system of “water rights”?

  98. nixiebunny says:

    Tucson just passed an ordinance requiring commercial buildings to harvest rainwater for irrigation, to save our precious groundwater.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts.

  99. Ugly Canuck says:

    Remember: water melts/destroys the West – I mean, the Wicked Witch of the West.

  100. rijrunner1 says:

    You’d save a lot more water by banning lawn maintenance. Mandate xeriscape. Allow watering only for food.

  101. Inkstain says:

    @7

    Because if enough people start collecting the water that falls on their property, a lot of people down the line don’t have enough.

    There is more to life than getting whatever we can for ourselves.

  102. NoahRodenbeek says:

    This is very, very interesting. I guess I just took the ideas of rain-barralls at face value, but if individual households are allowed to capture rainwater what’s to stop big business from doing the same in a more effective and overall damaging way?

  103. fontgoddess says:

    @Stephen [#7] In the West, this is the way it has always been. Water is a scarce resource. Also, if you live in the West, you probably don’t own the mineral rights to your property either.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_law
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mineral_rights

  104. blogueroconnor says:

    If Chavez did that, it would be accused of communist :)

  105. Takuan says:

    there is only one correct response to this; go to the house of who holds these “water rights” you trespass upon by being rained on. Give them their water, but only after it has passed through your kidneys. A gun to their head to keep them down until you are done.

  106. jmnugent says:

    I didnt read every comment, so maybe someone already said this.

    If you collect rainwater (and most people who do seem to do so out of “conservation” tendencies),..and are going to use it, that would seem to imply that you are using less tap-water, thus there is more tap-water available for others to use.

    So how does capturing rainwater lead to a loss of water to others?…Am i missing something?

    This is just stupid. Its an over-reach of our society that is built on the mindset that we can “own” anything. There is no such thing as “owning” natural resources. We need to stop thinking that way and start thinking more along the lines of “proper stewardship of the land”.

  107. zuzu says:

    You’d save a lot more water by banning lawn maintenance. Mandate xeriscape. Allow watering only for food.

    That’s called rationing and price controls.

    Why not just allow the price of water (as a commodity) to accurately reflect supply and demand?

  108. spif says:

    @CODEREDUK – You mean like this?

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26075457/

  109. Jardine says:

    There’s a town in Ontario called Wingham that is buying rain barrels for residents. The intention is to delay some water from entering the sewage system during spring melting.

  110. bardfinn says:

    Government management isn’t socialism, and it isn’t in-and-of-itself a bad thing. The government is one part of the market, not a separate entity in and of itself.

  111. Antinous / Moderator says:

    NtroP,

    Dial down the inflammatory rhetoric, please.

  112. zuzu says:

    This is exactly why government-issued “water rights”, as opposed to recognizing water for what it really is — a commodity — is so problematic.

    Previously:
    * Petition to make clean water a human right
    * For Love of Water: infuriating and incredible documentary about world’s water-crisis

    The general idea doesn’t bother me. It’s a public good. I’m tired of the entire concept of property rights in general.

    Property rights derive from scarcity and excludability. Unless you’ve got a Star Trek-style replicator you’ve been holding out on from everyone.

    Just declaring water a “public good” won’t make more of it available, or inform people on how to conserve its use according to availability. (That’s what price signals are for, just like every other commodity.)

    These people own these “rainwater harvesters” and the rain is precipitating on their property, so the water is theirs, not “farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies” who merely filed paperwork with the government.

    c.f. Salt Satyagraha and the British salt tax in colonial India

  113. GregLondon says:

    this is moronic.

    The only way someone could possibly leverage raincollection for evil ends would be if they bought all the land that water falls on, and divert it into a monopolistic underground storage bin. and then charge you to drink.

    I suppose if water got scarce enough, it might cause some rich guy to buy up a bunch of empty land, pave it into a big funnel and start a private water service or something.

    But if a guy is catching rainwater on a small property and using it to water his yard or wash his car, then it ends up in the ground anyway.

    If the law wants to avoid being totally assinine, it should at least allow residential rain collection for primary residences for private use or something.

  114. NeonCat says:

    They can pry my water out of my clammy, wrinkled dead hand.

    Anyone who gets fined by the various states for “diverting” rainwater should light giant propane torches all over their property whenever it precipitates so that not one drop touches the ground.

    Or, more practically, we should stop growing water intensive crops (like cotton) in arid areas like the American southwest. Especially considering how much of it is propped up by price supports and other distortions of the market.

    @ Inkstain
    Commie.

  115. ultraswank says:

    The same thing happened in Bolivia a few years ago. The World Bank forced them to privatize their water system as a stipulation on a new loan. The company that took it over (Bechtel I think) greatly increased the price of water and forced through a law that made it illegal to collect your own rainwater. Ended in riots and them getting kicked out of the country.

    That said the reason the absurdities come up is that the whole problem is complex and has a lot of implications for getting it wrong. As a Californian, I’d be in pretty bad shape if all the other states where it went through first decided they owned the water of the Colorado river.

  116. rijrunner1 says:

    Because buyers lined up 4,000,000,000 deep in CO on April 1st wanting enough water for their usage for that month is more water than is available in the month of April.

    It is even more true in the month of July.

    There is no magic wand here that will allow you to have access to the amount of water you need when you need it. There is larger demand than supply for most months. This system is designed to allow people to cache during peak months on their own property. There is not nearly enough water reservoirs publically owned to even cache 50% of the water demands here.

    Convoluted is because the situation is convoluted. Water should not necessarily go to the one with the biggest wallet. Prior rights are valid in many contexts. What is to stop a commercial provider from cornering the market like Enron tried with power in CA?

  117. Inkstain says:

    “These people own these “rainwater harvesters” and the rain is precipitating on their property, so the water is theirs, not “farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies” who merely filed paperwork with the government.”

    Why is it theirs? Because they have some piece of paper that says they “own’ this piece of land? And if we don’t respect that, some men with guns will show up and force us to?

    Not buying it.

  118. bardfinn says:

    rijrunner1:

    You’re equating the rain that falls with the rain that the ditch holds. Between the rain falling on the land and the rainwater hitting the ditch, there is some evaporation. The land holds some of that rainwater too, and it evaporates off – it never makes it to the ditch.

    The question you want to ask is this:

    In any given climate, with a particular volume of soil with a particular aggregate capability of holding a particular volume of moisture, after which additional moisture becomes transported to a catchment irrigation system, with a particular volume of rainfall over that climate in a particular time period during which there is a particular atmospheric temperature and humidity (giving us a figure for how much rainfall is reabsorbed into the atmosphere), what is the net impact to the ratio of water that falls in rain to water that ends up in the ditch under any given scenario of scaling water catchment systems for individual household use?

    Perhaps with a proliferation of individual catchement systems, fresh water in the long term in the climate is increased as it is not re-evaporated into the atmosphere or transported downstream, and weather forces keep the amount of water vapour in that climate’s weather system at a net balance?

    Maybe the 50000, 500000, or 5000000 gallons that those individuals catch, in small patches, over a widespread area, and retain or re-introduce to the climate once they’ve extracted some utility from it, doesn’t significantly impact the net amount of water that reaches the ditch at all – ?

    I like it when all the variables are examined. I don’t like oversimplifications.

    This sounds like something that needs a full-scale scientific investigation. If people can be fined for putting out barrels, can they be fined for having black shingles – which reradiate heat into the water running over them, causing more evaporation? Can they be fined for planting grass? Succulents? Cacti? If they strip the vegetation from a plot of land and build a building there, that impacts the retention capability of that land. What then?

    Or perhaps we could get past absolute principles.

  119. mdh says:

    The government is one part of the market, not a separate entity in and of itself.

    No.

    The government IS the people.

    Your interpretation sounds better in the original Italian.

  120. knodi says:

    Pardon my french, but this is fucking retarded. Haven’t these assholes heard of the “water cycle”? It’s not like she was putting the rainwater in lead barrels to be buried under Yucca Mountain! It’s not like she was exporting it to Argentina! Good lord, she was pouring it back into the ground, in her garden! IT WAS GOING RIGHT BACK INTO THE GROUND!

  121. rijrunner1 says:

    Because price of water no more reflects supply and demand than energy prices did during Enron’s price manipulations.

  122. Repeater says:

    I live in Australia, the driest inhabited continent on earth. In South Australia, in fact, the driest state of that nation. It never snows here, and there are no large mountains to speak of.
    Here the government subsidises rainwater tanks. I have four largish tanks gathering water from my modest roof, all bought before subsidies began.
    Most of our water comes from the only large constant river system on the continent. It goes through two more heavily populated states before it gets to South Australia, and there are constant arguments about water rights between the states.
    Some water comes from local dams in catchments. The catchment land is managed and regulated, probably not well enough, but it is.
    There is also some artesian water, which can only be accessed by permit in theory, although many people have illegal bores. There are no new permits being issued, because of the now more than a decade old drought.

  123. Jos3ph says:

    Please oh please oh pretty please read “Milagro Beanfield War”.

  124. guy_jin says:

    @7: don’t be silly. you never had ‘property rights’; you had property privlidges, until someone with more money than you decided he wanted your stuff.

  125. Inkstain says:

    “@ Inkstain
    Commie.”

    I’m more and more convinced these days that free-market capitalism is every bit as broken and doomed as communism was, and that the commies just got theirs first.

    Human nature being what it is, we all assumed that we survived longer because of some natural and virtuous quality of our system, rather than just dumb luck that let us last a few decades longer.

  126. yesno says:

    Zuzu,

    No one owns anything unless they have “merely filed paperwork with the government.” Otherwise the guy with the guns can just take it all.

    Land ownership is as much a form of government intervention in the economy as airline rate regulation.

    The system you advocate may work better, and it may be the one we should all adopt. But it’s not any more “natural” than any other system. Property “rights,” and indeed, “rights” of any kind are contingent human creations like everything else. The natural system of government would be as Hobbes described.

    I live in Colorado, and the system of water management we have is ridiculous. Farmers consume the majority of water, free, and get other subsidies to continue farming, despite the fact that most of the land is only marginally useful. I would love to see water bought and sold like any other commodity.

    That said, I think we should do this because I think it will lead to results I like, not because of some abstract argument from first principles.

  127. Nevadan says:

    I have to stand up for rijrunner1 again, because “me of course” not only was insulting but fails to understand the basic concept of water rights. “The rights to that water cannot be bought or sold … It falls from the sky and you are free to use it.”
    Who is free to use it? When? For what purpose?

    “You cannot horde it or commercialize it, of course, but you can use it.”
    It’s all about “hording” (also known as storage in a reservoir) and “commercializing” (virtually any use you can imagine, from watering your garden to operating a mine). Land without water in the West is practically worthless.

    “How is water captured in a vessel and then used for irrigation no longer (getting) into the water system?”
    Pretty simple. If I live upstream from you, build a dam and let my reservoir fill up for five years, then you’re going five years without water. If I start an industrial operation next door to you, pump 100,000 gallons an hour out of a well 24 hours a day, then the water table will drop and your well will be dry.
    The one thing you’re right about: Water is an inalienable human right. That’s why these laws exist, to protect the people downstream from the people upstream.

    And to Zax: Nobody “owns” the water. They own the right to use a certain amount at a certain place at a certain time. You ask about clouds, as if that is a hypothetical question. It’s not. There have been lawsuits regarding cloud-seeding by ski areas trying to increase snowfall. Rights-owners in other basins have sued on the argument the ski areas are artificially causing snow to fall on their property, when nature would have allowed it to fall on somebody else’s property. Yes, you need permission to move water from one basin (natural drainage area) to another, because it affects people’s water rights.

  128. Anonymous says:

    @ZUZU,

    Google — monopoly, virtual, without government involvement

    Also, vertically integrated content companies — Apple, Nintendo

    I’m sure there are others, but how does ZUZU-land solve the problem of deliberate sabotage? With your private police priced at market value, won’t established players eliminate startup competitors through destruction or even ultimately murder? Isn’t it Mafia-rule?

  129. Takuan says:

    this gives me an idea: all those low lying nations about to be inundated by rising sea levels should band together and build vast rafts to found Oceania.
    Then they could impose an evaporation tax on all nations that steal sea water for rainfall. They could also make war on any nations dumping sewage or wastes in the sea and charge tolls for passage on the surface. A small fleet of nuclear cruise missile armed subs to make them taken seriously.

  130. zuzu says:

    As a Californian, I’d be in pretty bad shape if all the other states where it went through first decided they owned the water of the Colorado river.

    Yeah, you’d have to stop guzzling your neighbor’s water as if it were more plentiful than it really is.

    The same thing happened in Bolivia a few years ago. The World Bank forced them to privatize their water system as a stipulation on a new loan. The company that took it over (Bechtel I think) greatly increased the price of water and forced through a law that made it illegal to collect your own rainwater.

    Exactly… but that’s not “privatization”, that’s just corporatism — giving a government-granted monopoly to Bechtel (or whoever).

    Real privatization would be exactly what was criminalized — anyone who can afford a rain harvester can collect water on their land.

  131. Takuan says:

    read? the movie is good too!

  132. Inkstain says:

    @19 I agree this application of the law is pretty asinine. I just want a better defense than “the guv’mint needs to stay off mah property!”

  133. mesrop says:

    The biggest money making lawyers are ones that deal with water rights.
    There was a time when the County of Los Angeles tried to claim water rights to all of the Colorado river.
    San Diego actually leases its fresh water.

  134. GregLondon says:

    zuzu@14: This is exactly why government-issued “water rights” … is so problematic.

    ultraswan@17: The World Bank forced them to privatize their water system … made it illegal to collect your own rainwater. Ended in riots

    So, on the one hand, we’ve got (1) zuzu’s assertions based on his free-market-anarchism world view, and on the other hand, we’ve got (2) ultraswan’s real-world example completely counter to zuzu’s idealized version of how free-market solves everthing so nicely.

    zuzu, maybe you need to say it three times to make the magic spell alter reality to match your expectations.

  135. rijrunner1 says:

    This played out in the Supreme Court over a century ago and has been upheld every single time since.

    I live in Colorado right at the edge of some very dry terrain. While I don’t like some of the aspects, the overall concept is, in fact, sound. A million people putting out 50 gallon barrels is 50 million gallons of water that does not reach the watershed and won’t be available anywhere else.

    If you let the water run off, it gets into the municipal water system. Then, it is available when you turn on your faucet and you pour out the exact amount you need. But, caching it? Never gets into the water system. People downstream never get any water. You decrease the amount getting into the watershed, then you still pull out water from the water system for most of your daily needs.

    This isn’t a new thing. Been in force well over a century in Colorado. In NM and AZ, they have some water rights that extend well back into Spanish colonial times, which were, in turn, partially adapted from Native American practices.

    Kinda funny that the LA Times is reporting this. CA is the largest consumer of water under this concept of prior appropriation. They, in fact, pull so much water out of the Colorado River, that it no longer reaches the Baja. If the legality of this gets changed, I personally will siphon off so much water that the Colorado River will no longer even come close to California.

  136. GregLondon says:

    I personally will siphon off so much water that the Colorado River will no longer even come close to California

    (resisting unbelievable urge to make joke about garden hose, golf balls, and enough water to drain the colorado river. not exactly succeeding at it.)

  137. mikefinch says:

    The collection of water for personal use in gardening or individual household use has no net effect on the water table. These laws are constructed to prevent land owners from removing the water from its original watershed.

    No police officer will ever arrest you for watering your garden with your rain barrel. Nor could any court convict you.

    Now, if you put tarps over several hundred acres of land (that you “own”), and collect tons of rainwater to run your brewery (as opposed to acquiring a license for water use) then its a problem.

    The law exists to prevent water export – which is seen by many to be a terrible idea that degenerates large areas of land. I hate it when reactionary jerks run around badmouthing good policy. Jaywalking is illegal, but who ever gets a ticket for it? Not many – and many of those who do could argue it away in court. So yes – jaywalking is illegal. But any jackass who has a reaction about not being legally allowed to cross an empty street is a moron. The letter of the law does not always reflect the spirit of the law. Thats why we have judges. They interpret the law and make sure it is applied responsibly and reasonably.

    sure you can act like a child an whine that you have to break the law when you collect out your gutters – but christ – what if your roof covered a quarter of a township? Dont be a jackass and use absolutist interpretations of law.

  138. zuzu says:

    So, on the one hand, we’ve got (1) zuzu’s assertions based on his free-market-anarchism world view, and on the other hand, we’ve got (2) ultraswan’s real-world example completely counter to zuzu’s idealized version of how free-market solves everthing so nicely.

    What are you talking about? Real world example of what? Counter to what?

    Are you trying to claim that the World Bank was imposing “free markets”? If so, then “free market” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    Free market would mean anyone could collect water on their property, without interference from the state (such as criminalizing it in the name of “water rights” to Bechtel, famers, water authorities, or whoever).

  139. Thebes says:

    Oh but if this doesn’t piss me the #$*& off. I live just south of this in New Mexico. People have been catching water for hundreds of &*#$ing years around here. 90%+ of my neighbors catch water off their roofs and I am setting up to do the same.

    Most of the “water rights” in southern Colorado are used on massive hay growing operations. The amount of water in a 55 gallon drum pales in such comparison as to be utterly absurd. BTW, those rat bast*$#s in Colorado take far more water than we get down here… a few miles one way its giant irrigated rings of grass, a few miles the other way and its sagebrush and sparse natural grasses… of course they make a good bit of money selling us the hay and straw we can’t even grow.

    $#*&ing bureaucrats griping about 55 measly #$&ing gallons of water prolly have nifty manicured lawns too.

  140. mikefinch says:

    “Why shouldn’t big businesses be allowed to collect rain, as long as it falls on their own property? What are they going to do, hoard it in ever bigger tanks, preventing it from ever going back into the aquifer? ”

    Uhhh yeah? What about about sugar processing, pulp mills, coca cola plants… They use up a ton of water. Water that is usually not returned to its original destination.

    Or did you not think of that? Cause if you didnt then what the hell is wrong with you? Are you THAT self absorbed that you think these laws were made for individuals using personal amounts of water?

    I repeat, nobody is going to come after you for using small amounts of rainwater for noncommercial use. I want to hear one – JUST ONE story of someone who had the cops come to their house to dump their 50 gallon rain-barrel.

  141. uknowbetter says:

    Inkstain and others, do you recognize that the government is rarely as efficient as private markets?

    Competition and profit incentives tend to encourage efficiency. The government faces neither of those.

  142. GregLondon says:

    Free market would mean anyone could collect water on their property, without interference from the state

    Ah, I forget. One of teh really cool things about anarchism is that each anarchist gets to decide up to what point the government can pass laws and beyond what point the government has no right to pass laws.

    So, the government will enforce property laws, but just exactly as you imagine them.

    You know what, never mind.

  143. echthroi says:

    Remind me again how much of our “scarce” water supply goes to watering the crops used to feed our food?

  144. timmaah says:

    Little late to the conversation, but how about…

    Rain water falls, spins a turbine that then pumps 50 gallons of water from her well into a barrel. Rain water falls into ground, zero “grid” power burned and you now have 50 gallons of legal water to use on your garden.

    (I guess this fails if you have municipal water, but that brings up the question, is it illegal to have your own well? Who owns the water beneath your house?)

  145. angryhippo says:

    This sounds like a poorly-written law that can make anyone a criminal. Do you have any plant life in your yard? You are illegally preventing water from reaching table.

    Like #19 said, it will all reach there eventually, especially if the water is being held to irrigate a small garden.

  146. Jay Acker says:

    I live in Yuma Arizona. The last stop of the Colorado river before it leaves the U.S. and heads into Mexico.

    And after Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and California get their share of water the mighty Colorado you see in pictures of people whitewater rafting and slicing through the Grand Canyon is a mere creek that you can walk across or float a couple miles down in an innertube (which you might have to carry in stretches because its so shallow) on a hot summer day.

    If you look at a map, it shows the Colorado river heading into Mexico before emptying into the Pacific Ocean, but the more common truth is that the river dries up completely before it reaches that far.

  147. wolfwitch says:

    I live in Colorado.

    This is the same state that is putting farmers out of business by literally taking all of their water rights so suburban sprawl areas like Aurora and Highlands Ranch have more water for their lawns.

  148. Jay Acker says:

    I live in Yuma Arizona. The last stop of the Colorado river before it leaves the U.S. and heads into Mexico.

    And after Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and California get their share of water the mighty Colorado you see in pictures of people whitewater rafting and slicing through the Grand Canyon is a mere creek that you can walk across or float a couple miles down in an innertube (which you might have to carry in stretches because its so shallow) on a hot summer day.

    If you look at a map, it shows the Colorado river heading into Mexico before emptying into the Pacific Ocean, but the more common truth is that the river dries up completely before it reaches that far.

  149. cinemajay says:

    I agree that it sounds totally ridiculous, but if everyone did it (which they won’t) then there could be an issue. Here in Minnesota watershed is the one of the biggest, most boring concerns. The public could care less, but it’s a huge issue with cities, farmers, and property owners near the highway. Not enough water can also lead to huge grass fires.

    It’s not privatizing drinking water. It’s using the law to make sure it gets to where it’s needed.

  150. zawan says:

    Freedom

    meh

  151. WarLord says:

    You never own property – somebody had it before you and someone will own it after you are just a tenanat CHILL!

    As for water welcome to the new world where oil is cheep and water is a thing worth dying over

    Hope you don’t live somewhere arid because this is just the beginning….

  152. noen says:

    I have absolutely no doubt that taken to it’s logical end they really will try to privatize the air. After all, it’s a commodity just like any other.

    As for the feeling that no political/economic system seems to work… yeah, I have that too. It’s people who wreak these things. They ain’t no damn good, the lot of ‘em.

  153. zuzu says:

    So, the government will enforce property laws, but just exactly as you imagine them.

    Property law is for property, which has no reality basis in government-granted monopolies.

    “Water rights” are not property. “Intellectual property” is not property.

    Only those physical artifacts which meet the criteria of rivalry and excludability qualify as property.

    Government-granted monopolies are the hallmark of corporatism (i.e. the government-business partnership), not free markets.

  154. DeWynken says:

    We piss in the water here in Colorado, for you Californicators to enjoy :D

    Which is no big deal considering the all the mining chemicals that leach into coming down off the mountains..

  155. KevinC says:

    I can see both sides of the arguement here but I am going with collecting water should be fine.

    The rain water is, in fact, a commodity in some areas and Colorado, et al, is GIVING to certain people/groups. It’s the states property, the state being the people of the state. Therefore it belongs to everyone.

    If farmers need more and ‘civilians’ have collected it, let the farmers buy it from the civilians. Civilians buy it from their local water company.

    Why would farmers/ranchers/developers get dips or free water and everyone else has to pay?
    KevinC

  156. zuzu says:

    There is larger demand than supply for most months.

    Um, that’s true for anything with a price, from cars to cocoa-puffs cereal to gasoline. What makes water so exceptional?

    Because price of water no more reflects supply and demand than energy prices did during Enron’s price manipulations.

    So why not fix that instead? Allow prices to reflect actual supply and demand.

    Water should not necessarily go to the one with the biggest wallet.

    Water should go to those most willing to pay.

  157. Nevadan says:

    Yesno,

    I don’t understand. The rights to use water are bought and sold in Colorado every day. Farmers don’t use it for “free” — they own a right to use it. It’s not quite like any other commodity, because it can be reused many times. But there is definitely a market for water rights.
    If you buy a farm, you don’t necessarily get the water rights associated with it. They are separate. Most of the population growth in Colorado the past 30 years, or more, has been possible because municipalities or developers bought the rights to agricultural water, then converted those rights to municipal use.
    If you examine your water bill, or ask the water department, you will see it is broken down into a charge for the city’s cost to obtain the rights to divert it and a separate right to store it. You also pay for the cost of treating it before you drink it, and a cost for treating it after you flush it down the toilet so that it usable for the next person down the line. As I said before, the rights owner gets credit for returning water to the system.

  158. TheMadLibrarian says:

    Waterworld FTW!!

    Seriously, the idea that it might be illegal to use rainwater catchment for personal/noncommercial use strikes me as very dumb. Why should someone pay a utility for what is delivered by nature free of charge?

  159. zuzu says:

    You never own property – somebody had it before you and someone will own it after you

    You own it until you trade it away.

    I have absolutely no doubt that taken to it’s logical end they really will try to privatize the air. After all, it’s a commodity just like any other.

    Actually, air on Earth doesn’t satisfy the qualities for property either, because it’s non-rival. Having the quality of property is a pre-requisite for having the quality of commodity (which is property that is fungible).

  160. Clay says:

    Free market as in open to all, or free market as in unregulated?

    An unregulated market would then allow someone to start buying out everyone else’s barrels, coercing the holdouts, and then selling water to everyone at an inflated price.

    A regulated, free market would allow someone to start buying out everyone else’s barrels, but then face them with the option of either becoming a monopoly with publicly-agreed-upon price limits or limiting the percentage of village rain barrels they can buy out so that you can buy a few and try to compete.

  161. rijrunner1 says:

    Poorly written?

    THIS IS NOT NEW.

    This isn’t some move to privatize and hand over to corporations.

    This predates the World Bank by 75 years, at least.

    Suppose a farm has been using water from Ditch 1 that runs through Larimer County CO for the past 100 years. The water is collected from runoff on the section of land running along Route 14. Some developers come in and build a number of housing developments along that road.

    Suddenly, no runoff reaches the ditch and the farm is put out of business..

    Is that fair?

  162. Disassembly says:

    Is a Man Not Entitled to the Sweat of His Own Brow? “No”, says the man in Colorado. “It belongs to the farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies!”

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