Collecting rainwater can get you in legal trouble in Oregon. A court has sentenced a southern Oregon man to 30 days in jail, and a fine, for maintaining 3 illegal reservoirs on his property. Amelia Templeton of Earthfix reports.
Gary Harrington has told the court, and newspapers that he was just storing rainwater to use for wildfire protection. But rainwater is what fills most of the rivers in Oregon, says Tom Paul with the Oregon Water Resources Department. And you can’t divert its natural flow it without getting permission first.
Paul: “If you build a dam, an earthen dam, and interrupt the flow of water off of the property, and store that water that is an activity that would require a water right permit from us.”
Paul says one of Harrington’s dams was 15 feet high. And the dams were capturing water that flowed into a nearby creek, which belongs to the City of Medford. Harrington is appealing his jail sentence and fine.
A final note. If you’re capturing the rainwater that runs off your roof or driveway, no need to worry. There’s an exemption in Oregon’s water rights law just for that.
Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio