Is Collecting Rainwater Illegal?
Contributed by Jim Elliott
Sunday, 06 March 2011
For many who have been in fights over the provision of public water services found in many towns and cities across the world, there are chilling actions being taken in Utah that need notice. Those fights have been around the right of a community to collectively manage the provision of water and its associated services as compared to the worrisome provision of those same services by private corporations.
What would happen if you were told that it was illegal to divert water
that falls on your home and that the authorities would charge you with
breaking the law? That is what is possible in Utah, Washington and
If a private company wants to provide the same level of service, pay
employees the same salaries and maintain the service to the same level
of quality, then the addition of profit will make this cost more than
it does now. If we think it will cost the same that it does now, then
either the amount of service provided, the salaries of the employees or
the level of maintenance will go down.
And many of those that have been promoting conservation of water would
say that we need to reduce the actual need for the use of water that is
piped in from some other lake or river or well. One of the options for
action and reducing municipal demand is rain harvesting. This is
providing a collection system to divert and retain water for use in our
yards, in our homes and ultimately for potable water use.
Mark Miller in Salt Lake City, Utah wanted to collect
rainwater on his car lot to use for washing his new cars.
"Utah's the second driest state in the nation. Our laws probably ought
to catch up with that," explained Miller in response to the state's
ridiculous rainwater collection ban. The state officials worked out a
compromise with Miller and are now permitting him to use "their"
rainwater.Some see this issue as an invasion of personal rights by
the government. Some see this as just a few laws that should have been
removed from the books a long time ago. But others are saying that we
are basically being reprogrammed to think that we need permission from
the government to exercise our inalienable rights, when in fact the
government is supposed to be deriving its power from us.
The debate in these states may be simply debates in these states if
there are not some current examples of countries trying to do the same
thing today. After South Africa gave over its control over water
services to a private corporation, some South Africans were being
challenged to not collect rain falling from the sky because it would eat
into the profits that this corporation would make because of its
monopoly for water supply in that country. To their credit, the people
of South Africa eventually threw out the corporation and now provide
public water services and are not being harassed for collecting
Canadians are not in the same boat but there are storm clouds on the
horizon. The Canadian government is now negotiating with the European
Union giving private corporations access to the sub-government
procurement process through CETA. This is where most of the water and
sewer utilities are managed. Corporations would have the right to
legally challenge the government if their access to these tenders and
services are limited or violated.
Just imagine if a corporation was
providing water to the city and everyone began to collect rainwater for
household use. Would that corporation be allowed to sue the city and
force the residents to stop collecting rainwater?
And we are fighting back. On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General
Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to a resolution declaring the human right
to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.” Unfortunately,
Canada abstained from voting for the resolution.
There are a large number of groups led by the Council of Canadians that are fighting the Canada-European
Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement both here in Canada
and in the European Union.
The fight to have water kept in the Global Commons has been one of the
biggest fights following the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is
felt that water under the Agreement has been turned into a commodity that can be bought and
But, the Harper government, very recently, just about turned a clean
legally-protected lake into a toxic waste dump for a corporation.
Luckily, the public opposition was strong and stopped the action.
As long as people remain unaware and uninformed about important issues,
the corporations, and with the help of the government, will continue to
chip away at the rights, freedoms and the protections we fought for and currently enjoy.
Last Updated ( Monday, 07 March 2011 )