Man Sentenced to Jail -- for Collecting
Rainwater on His Property !
A rural Oregon man was sentenced on July 25 to 30 days in jail and over $1,500 in fines because he
had three reservoirs on his property to collect and use rainwater.
Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, Ore., says he plans to appeal his conviction in Jackson County (Ore.)
Circuit Court on nine misdemeanor charges under a 1925 law for having what state water managers
called "three illegal reservoirs" on his property – and for filling the reservoirs with rainwater and snow
runoff. [Update: Harrington reported to the jail on August 8 to begin serving his sentence.]
"The government is bullying," Harrington says Thursday.
"They’ve just gotten to be big bullies and if you just lay over and die and give up, that just makes them
bigger bullies. So, we as Americans, we need to stand on our constitutional rights, on our rights as
citizens and hang tough. This is a good country, we’ll prevail," he said.
The court has given Harrington two weeks to report to the Jackson County Jail to begin serving his
Harrington said the case first began in 2002, when state water managers told him there were complaints
about the three "reservoirs" – ponds – on his more than 170 acres of land.
According to Oregon water laws, all water is publicly owned. Therefore, anyone who wants to store
any type of water on their property must first obtain a permit from state water managers.
Harrington said he applied for three permits to legally house reservoirs for storm and snow water runoff
on his property. One of the "reservoirs" had been on his property for 37 years, he said.
Though the state Water Resources Department initially approved his permits in 2003, the state – and a
state court -- ultimately reversed the decision.
"They issued me my permits. 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
The case, he said, is centered on a 1925 law which states that the city of Medford holds exclusive rights
to "all core sources of water" in the Big Butte Creek watershed and its tributaries.
"Way back in 1925 the city of Medford got a unique withdrawal that withdrew all -- supposedly all --
the water out of a single basin and supposedly for the benefit of the city of Medford,"
Harrington says however, that the 1925 law doesn’t mention anything about colleting rainwater or
snow melt -- and he believes that he has been falsely accused.
"The withdrawal said the stream and its tributaries. It didn’t mention anything about rainwater and it
didn’t mention anything about snow melt and it didn’t mention anything about diffused water, but yet
now, they’re trying to expand that to include that rain water and they’re using me as the goat to do it,"
But Tom Paul, administrator of the Oregon Water Resources Department, claims that Harrington has
been violating the state’s water use law by diverting water from streams running into the Big Butte
"The law that he is actually violating is not the 1925 provision, but it’s Oregon law that says all of the
water in the state of Oregon is public water and if you want to use that water, either to divert it or to
store it, you have to acquire a water right from the state of Oregon before doing that activity,"
Yet Paul admitted the 1925 law does apply because, he said, Harrington constructed dams to block a
tributary to the Big Butte, which Medford uses for its water supply.
"There are dams across channels, water channels where the water would normally flow if it were not
for the dam and so those dams are stopping the water from flowing in the channel and storing itholding
it so it cannot flow downstream,"
Harrington, however, argued in court that that he is not diverting water from Big Butte Creek, but the
dams capturing the rainwater and snow runoff – or "diffused water" – are on his own property and that
therefore the runoff does not fall under the jurisdiction of the state water managers, nor does it not
violate the 1925 act.
In 2007, a Jackson County Circuit Court judge Denied Harrington’s permits and found that he had
illegally "withdrawn the water at issue from appropriation other than for the City of Medford."
According to Paul, Harrington entered a guilty plea at the time, received three years probation and was
ordered to open up the water gates.
"A very short period of time following the expiration of his probation, he once again closed the gates
and re-filled the reservoirs," . "So, this has been going on for some time and I think frankly the court
felt that Mr. Harrington was not getting the message and decided that they’d already given him
probation once and required him to open the gates and he refilled his reservoirs and it was business as
usual for him, so I think the court wanted -- it felt it needed -- to give a stiffer penalty to get Mr.
In two weeks, if unsuccessful in his appeals, Harrington says that he will report to the Jackson County
Jail to serve his sentence.
"I follow the rules. If I’m mandated to report, I’m going to report. Of course, I’m going to do what it
takes in the meantime to prevent that, but if I’m not successful, I’ll be there," Harrington said.
But Harrington also said that he will never stop fighting the government on this issue.
"When something is wrong, you just, as an American citizen, you have to put your foot down and say,
‘This is wrong; you just can’t take away anymore of my rights and from here on in, I’m going to fight
How about well water? What's next? How about an indoor pool !
What if I forgot a bucket outside when it last rained. I better dump it before the cops get wise to it!
Only the government would dare to tax and control rain that falls from heaven for everyone's use.
But, this isn't about water. It is about power over the people.
If you tilt your head up in the rain in Oregon and swallow you had better urinate back directly on the
soil so as not to accidentally take any of the Collective's water.
The feds have more far reaching 'claims' to rainwater and runoff than most states. Drive through any
stretch of the country and count the 'watershed area' signs. Look at some of the newer maps and you'll
see thousands of new streams named and charted which were called wet weather veins or 'washes' for
centuries. Once something is named, the feds claim ownership.
So it's okay for the government to claim rights to water in the sky?
I don't care if someone lives on .25 acres, rain is a free entity and always has been supplied by the grace
of God, not Big Brother.
Some "environmentalists" have advocated collecting rain water to "conserve" ground water and Oregon
is a state full of those people. It just goes to show that the environmental movement is not about the
environment but about government interference and control over people's lives.
Does public water include wells? If not now, soon it will. This is why many people are drilling boot leg
water wells with no permits with small portable water well drilling rigs. A water well on your land that
is not permitted, is your water. Once you permit a well, then you can only use it if they let you. Permit
holder ( the government) can revoke or suspend your well permit even yrs later. This is why older water
wells were what you called Grand fathered. They were before permits.
Water rights even can change or alter your land value. No water rights, equals no land value.
Know your water rights before buying land.
In Colorado, if you have less than 35 acres you can NOT have a water well there. Colorado also requires rain water permits.