Sunday, December 21, 2008

Utah District 20 Senator Scott Jenkins Drafting A Bill To Legalize The Collection Of Rainwater By Individual Homeowners

Yes, that's right. It's currently illegal to capture and collect rainwater for your own personal use in Utah. The current law, passed over 80 years ago, prohibits people from collecting rainwater because Utah regards all water in the state, whether it's above, below or on the ground, as public property. The premise behind the existing law is that if you collect rainwater, even before it hits the ground, it is automatically assumed that you are depriving people downstream of the rights to that water. In other words, "runoff" doesn't actually have to be in a body of water to be defined as "runoff".

The law is rarely enforced against individual homeowners, but the owner of Mark Miller Toyota ran into a bit of a problem last summer when he deployed a rainwater collection system for his car wash. The "water commissars" flagged him. This story was documented in this previous post.

So Utah District 20 Senator Scott Jenkins (R-Plain City) is drafting a proposal that allows residents to store up to 2,500 gallons of rainwater. Residents would be allowed to keep their catchment systems replenished. Although he briefed the State Water Development Commission on the proposed bill on Tuesday December 16th, the draft has not been released to the public yet, although it is included on a list of six bills pre-filed by Jenkins. It is unclear whether or not the bill would impose any restrictions on collection methods. What is clear is that commercial users like Mark Miller Toyota would not benefit; they would still be required to purchase or acquire a right to store and use rainwater runoff.

Jenkins has said with the trend toward environmentally-friendly living, residents should be allowed to harvest their own water. Media stories by the Deseret News and KSL Channel 5. Previous KSL stories HERE and HERE.

Analysis: According to the Deseret News article, apparently a significant number of Utahns, particularly those in rural areas, have known that rainwater is considered runoff before it hits the ground. It sure never occurred to me that you couldn't collect rainwater without a water right. But considering that much of Utah is considered arid, I can now better understand why this definition developed.

However, I commend Senator Jenkins for his desire to reduce the burden of government upon individual homeowners.

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