October 03, 2014

by Ethan Huff

(Health Secrets) A simple act of collecting rainwater on his own property has resulted in a 30-day prison sentence for an Oregon landowner. According to CBS News, Gary Harrington was slapped with a $1500 fine and the 30 day prison sentence after being convicted of nine misdemeanors for diverting snow runoff and rainwater into three reservoirs on his property. Local officials said his actions violated an antiquated law governing personal water use.

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Harrington, known as Rain Main, reportedly built reservoirs which hold an estimated 13 million gallons of water, for his own personal use. He has stocked one of them with largemouth bass for sporting. When wildfires emerge in the area, he intends the water from this and the other two reservoirs to be used for mitigation. Harrington believes the operation is perfectly legal and is a legitimate use of his own property.

The state of Oregon disagrees with Harrington, claiming that he is actually diverting onto his own property water intended for the Big Butte Creek watershed and its tributaries, which are governed by the nearby city of Medford. Some have even accused Harrington of hoarding natural resources that do not belong to him, insisting that he should instead allow water that runs onto his property to flow into the city’s water reserves from which it can be redistributed.

“They issued me my permits,” stated Harrington to CNS News about the legality of his water collection efforts. “I had my permits in hand and they retracted them just arbitrarily, basically. They took them back and said, ‘No, you can’t have them.’ So I’ve been fighting it ever since.”

Outdated 1920s law cited against Harrington

State water managers, however, have cited a 1925 law that provisions exclusive ownership of all “core sources of water” by the city of Medford, not private landowners. They say Harrington’s three reservoirs are included under this provision, and water flowing through his property belongs to the state.

However, Harrington insists that his water collection efforts are legal, and water stored on his property serves a primary purpose of dealing with frequent wildfires. Harrington also uses the water in his dwelling for non-potable purposes, similar to rain collection efforts that involve diverting water from roofs and other non-porous surfaces into barrels or storage tanks.

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