Let It Rain

I can tell it’s almost Independence Day, because it’s raining.

I’ve noted before the irony that the Summer Solstice has become known as the “first day” of summer, even though it is more accurately midsummer day. The weather accentuates this, as May and June tend to be sunny and dry in our region, then the weather tends wetter through the remainder of the summer. Statistically, July falls in the dry column, but we seem to get a period of rain leading up to the Fourth of July no matter what.

I realized recently, as I stood in the rain, that our water supply is a lot more secure than we’ve thought lately. I discovered that I’m still thinking of our water collection in terms of a failure in the system that no longer exists.

In the summer, our primary water supply goal is to fill the winter water tank. Last autumn, when we switched from the summer tank to the winter tank, we began to suspect a problem, as outlined in the post, Dodging a Bullet. Earlier this summer we solved the problem, a leaky gate (see Improvements to the Water System) but we took a bit longer to recover mentally from the issue. It’s only beginning to dawn on us that the winter tank will fill faster, and has probably filled by now, with a couple of rainy summer months still ahead of us. Meanwhile, the summer water tank continues to overflow, showing no signs of drying out.

Water wealth continues to gain value in a world where readily available, clean water is quickly becoming rarer. Draughts continue in the American southwest. Multinational corporations that specialize in resource extraction are quietly privatizing water sources around the world. Some of the United States, such as Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah, have gone so far as to declare rain a state resource, meaning that a citizen’s rain barrel constitutes theft from the state outside allowances “granted” by the state.

Let me say that again: these states have made it illegal to collect rain water! That’s radical. It’s dangerous! And, it’s a harbinger of things to come. Something is terribly wrong when any government takes such measures. That it’s happening in our country is very sobering.

Such measures seem unlikely here in Alaska. We’re likely to enjoy relatively secure water for the rest of our lives. I say “relatively” secure, because true security doesn’t exist in Nature, if it in fact exists anywhere (see Fresh Water: Collecting and Conserving a Precious Resource).

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2 Responses to Let It Rain

  1. Dick Pilz says:

    I live in Portland, OR. I am encouraged by the city to collect rainwater from my roof and driveway so it does not enter the stormwater system. This is an exempt use. “Rainwater: collection and use of rainwater from an artificial impervious surface (like a parking lot or a building’s roof).” Portland has a combined sewage system and too much stormwater causes raw sewage to overflow into the Willamette River.

    Most water usage in Western states is governed and restricted by “senior water rights” for over 100 years and the permit system is there to ensure junior rights do not unreasonably affect senior rights. This covers rain (surface) and groundwater. Certain “small” amounts (15,000 gallons or less) for single or domestic use are exempt also.

    There was a big to-do about someone “stealing” rainwater 2 years ago. He had built un-permitted dams to do it.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Dick,

    Yes, he apparently “stole” rainwater by allowing it to fill ponds that had previously been permitted by the state, but then those permits were revoked later.

    I had to include Oregon on the list because they have the law. I suspect most states have the law on statute in case they’re needed, but rarely use them. It pained me to include Oregon, because I lived there several years, and love the state–I consider it the most progressive state in the nation, but facts are facts.

    As I understand it, the rainwater “stealing” occurred in eastern Oregon, which you know, but other readers may not, is the dry side of the state. Portland receives enough rain to threaten such problems as flooded sewers, while eastern Oregon is considered arid by most standards. I don’t know, but I assume that any such rainwater use issues in Washington state occur on the east side of that state as well. One would not expect water use issues west of the Cascade Range at present, but if the laws are on the books, they may someday be used against citizens in those areas as well. It’s at least worth thinking about.

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