Snopes gets Snoped

On July 30, 2012, I posted Who Owns the Rain. It’s the story of Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, Oregon who was charged with illegally collecting rainwater on his land.  I said in the post that Mr. Harrington was facing a possible jail sentence unless he complied with orders to release into Big Butte Creek the rainwater he has collected in ponds on his 170-acre property. Sure enough, Harrington began serving a 30-day jail sentence just a couple of weeks after my post.

News stories reported that Harrington was sent to jail for collecting rainwater. Snopes has debunked these stories as “mostly false.” In fact they are entirely true. Harrington has also been given a $1500 fine and if he has the ability to pay it but refuses he could be sent back to jail for an indefinite amount of time for contempt of court.  If that happens he can be held until he either pays the fine or the court concludes that holding him in jail will not be effective to force him to pay. If he has property that can be levied upon to satisfy the fine, the court would likely take that route instead of jail.

While Harrington was collecting only rainwater, he was collecting it in what he called ponds and the state called reservoirs on his 170-acre property. Yesterday, the New York Times had a story about a Denver woman collecting rainwater off her roof by catching it in barrels attached to her roof gutters. She uses the water to irrigate the plants in her greenhouse.  It turns out that is illegal under Colorado water law which allocates water to the historical owners of water rights.

The 2015 Colorado legislature tried to enact an exception to the state’s ancient water law that would allow property owners to collect rainwater in up to two(2) 55-gallon barrels. The bill failed and the legislature has adjourned for the year.

So Snopes, you are hereby Snoped.  The battle for who owns the rain is true, and it’s ongoing.

Here is a 2-minute video report by Newswatch 11 of Medford, Oregon on the Gary Harrington saga as he surrendered to begin serving his sentence.

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