Who owns the rain?

In Oregon the state says the government owns it. The state prosecutors and going after a man who collected rain water on his land on the theory that he is violating a statute that says the City of Medford owns all the appropriation rights to the Big Butte Creek for city water use. Landowners cannot block or take water from Big Butte Creek or its tributaries running through their lands.

Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, Oregon says he is not diverting water from Big Butte Creek, he is just collecting rainwater in ponds that have been on his land for 37 years. Nevertheless, he’s stealing water they say.

Mr. Harrington was first granted a permit for his ponds but shortly after the permits were revoked and he was ordered to jail for 30 days. The reason given for revoking the permits was that Mr. Harrington was building dams on his property to hold back water. It seems the dams were not holding water from Big Butte Creek nor any of its tributaries, but only holding rainwater that might have otherwise flowed into Big Butte Creek.

Here is a video report from Fox News:

It seems that if the right to collect rainwater, and thus deprive Big Butte Creek of that water, were covered by the statute, it would say so. It doesn’t. It also seems that rain falling on one’s land should belong to the landowner. If someone owned enough land and could collect all the rain that fell on that land, maybe Big Butte Creek would be substantially affected. But that seems unlikely. Anyway, it doesn’t appear that the state has even alleged that the flow of Big Butte Creek has been affected. Not all rainwater falling on the land will end up in the Big Butte Creek anyway, since a lot of it will be absorbed into the ground. Another part of it will evaporate. The statute simply does not seem to cover Mr. Harrington’s collection of rainwater on his own land. So far, the judge in the case doesn’t agree. Harrington says he’ll fight it to the end but will report to jail if he must.

I wonder if the State of Oregon claims that it owns the sunshine?

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