Thursday, August 2, 2012

Money talks - why rainwater collection is illegal in some jurisdictions

Hey, kids, let's do our part to save the environment and be green! And it's really really easy! All that you have to do is set up some type of water collection system at your house. When it rains, you collect the water, and then you can use that water for drinking and bathing and other stuff!

Isn't that neat?

Oh, and one other thing - depending upon where you live, you might have to dodge the police.

You see, kids, diverting rainwater can be illegal:

It’s illegal in Utah to divert rainwater without a valid water right, and Mark Miller of Mark Miller Toyota, found this out the hard way.

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

Salt Lake City officials worked out a compromise with Miller and are now permitting him to use “their” rainwater....

To understand why various government bodies are opposed to this, you only need to look at this quote elsewhere in the Health Freedom Alliance post:

Douglas County, Colorado, conducted a study on how rainwater collection affects aquifer and groundwater supplies. The study revealed that letting people collect rainwater on their properties actually reduces demand from water facilities and improves conservation.

Now all you have to do is to follow the money. Reduced demand from water facilities means reduced revenue for your local water agency, which could result in reductions in jobs, threats to pensions, and so forth. So guess what? Government water agencies are naturally inclined to oppose conservation measures such as rainwater collection.

Now one could argue that we could incentivize governemnt water agencies to encourage reductions in demand...but as any analysis of the U.S. agricultural system will note, such restrictions can cause immense problems of their own. Mark Bittman:

Agricultural subsidies have helped bring us high-fructose corn syrup, factory farming, fast food, a two-soda-a-day habit and its accompanying obesity, the near-demise of family farms, monoculture and a host of other ills.

And despite Bittman's agrument that agricultural subsidies must be fixed rather than scrapped, I suspect that any "fix" will introduce problems of its own.

And I suspect that any government program to encourage rainwater collection will introduce problems too.

And that, kids, is how economics works.

H/T George Station.
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