Over the past month, county authorities in the state of Oregon brought
charges against a homeowner who collected rainwater on his property that
he stored inside a large, underground water tank. The county had
previously enacted regulation that asserted authority and “ownership”
over rainwater that fell on the region. Officials claimed that the
homeowner was “stealing water that was county property and that belonged
in local streams to supply water to the county storage dam, where it
would be available for the general population and to fight fires.”
few years earlier, a state government in Southern Australia enacted
similar regulation that banned private water storage such as wells
located on private property. The state had built a massive storage dam
on a river that was to be the sole source of water for residents in an
entire region. Then a change in local weather resulted in a prolonged
drought that revealed two shortcomings of mega-sized storage dams:
evaporation and seepage. The lack of rainfall and prolonged heat emptied
the dam to expose its dry lakebed while a few small, private, covered
dams on private property held water.
Photographs of the dry lakebed that was formerly the state’s crowning
achievement in the form of a mega-sized storage dam intended to carry
the region through prolonged periods of drought appeared in newspapers,
magazines and television broadcasts. Small covered dams and wells
located on private property minimized evaporation of water, while
private property owners discovered ways to make productive use of water
lost through underground seepage. Roots of fruit trees planted at
strategic location could access the seepage water.
In Southern Australia and in many other locations around the world, land
topography debunks the claim that all rainwater that falls on to private
property will find its way into streams and rivers that lead to state
dams. Depending on location, local climatic and weather conditions can
evaporate massive volumes of water before it ever reaches any stream.
During the northern winter, water can transform from snow or ice
directly into vapor through a process known as sublimation, never
becoming liquid. Groundwater from high elevations can seep into
underground caves and flow in underground streams directly to the ocean.
“Coastal cities that dump
storm water into the ocean would be extremely suitable
locations to develop the concept of decentralized water
storage on a massive scale, involving thousands of owners of
private residential, commercial, or industrial property.”
Officials in the State of Oregon may be unaware of the volume of water
that flows from high elevations in their region into the ocean through
underground streams. It is certainly orders of magnitude larger than the
drop in a bucket that a private homeowner could collect in a water
barrel. During the early 1960s in the southwestern UK, railway engineers
and their construction crew were building a railway tunnel when they
encountered a previously unknown, fast flowing underground stream of
water. Water pumps continually divert that abundant flow of water out of
From early times, the evolution of river and coastal maritime
transportation resulted in many large cities being developed near the
ocean, a large inland lake or the bank of a river. The infrastructures
of coastal cities include extensive networks of storm sewers that
transfer storm rainwater into rivers, lakes and ocean. Coastal cities
that dump storm water into the ocean would be extremely suitable
locations to develop the concept of decentralized water storage on a
massive scale, involving thousands of owners of private residential,
commercial, or industrial property.
During the rainy season, modern water collection technology installed
around roofs of buildings can separate leaves from rainwater, allowing
it to flow into water barrels or into underground water storage tanks
located on each participating property. A percentage of that water could
help sustain modern urban farming involving vertical agriculture that
can greatly increase production on relatively small parcels of land.
Some urban farms can yield up to 5,000 lbs of produce annually from 0.5
acres of land. Decentralized water storage also eases the burden on
storm sewers by reducing the risk of flooding in low-lying urban areas.
In large cities, authorities who allow citizens the freedom to develop
private water storage on private property could indirectly contribute to
new economic activity over the short term. If the mega-dams that supply
water to such cities are privately owned, the owners gain an opportunity
to export excess water to other locations. Inside the city, property
owners may be motivated to purchase water barrels or even install
underground storage, perhaps adapting sections of large-diameter sewer
pipes sealed at one end into to underground storage tanks. Suppliers of
water pumps would gain new business opportunities.
Events occurring in Canada illustrated some lessons about water storage.
For several decades, an island in southern James Bay had been without
beavers that built dams. During drought, the island was a desolate
wasteland until beavers were re-introduced and built new small dams.
During a subsequent drought, the beaver dams stored enough melt water
from winter snow to raise the water table and sustain lush vegetation
that sustained other herbivores. During the 1930s, Western Canada’s
agricultural region experienced severe drought after beaver populations
were decimated, greatly reducing the supply of available water.
The spectacle of a state-owned mega-dam drying up in Southern Australia
and a state prohibition on private water storage on private property
illustrates the short-sighted behaviour of government officials when it
comes to resource management. Internationally, there is potential for
decentralized water storage on a massive scale, on private property in
coastal cities and using methods that greatly reduce water lost to
seepage and evaporation. However, this can only occur if people are free
to do so.
From the same author
Free Market Trade and Border Towns
330 – March 15, 2015)
Growing Concerns about Sexual Violence on Campus
329 – February 15, 2015)
Alberta Challenges Home-Schooling Families
329 – February 15, 2015)
State Social Policy and the Rise of Psychopathic
328 – January 15, 2015)
The Sometimes Sad Legacy of State Experts
328 – January 15, 2015)
First written appearance of the
word 'liberty,' circa 2300 B.C.
Le Québécois Libre
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cooperation since 1998.