Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Who Owns The Sky?

In Colorado, "every drop of water that hits the ground belongs to someone."

So says said Kevin Bommer, Colorado Municipal League lobbyist who is critical of new legislation giving homeowners the right to collect the rainwater that falls from their skies. **If** homeowners can prove that setting up a rainbarrel does not infringe on other water users' rights.

Because for years now, the rain falling from the clouds was private property. Does that mean that someone owned the sky over Colorado..?

"People are shocked that some developer or water provider owns the water that falls out of the sky," said Rep. Marsha Looper, a Republican from rural Calhan, southeast of Denver, who sponsored the legislation.

The New York Times carries an arresting article this week, "Its Now Legal To Catch A Raindrop In Colorado", reminding us rain-drenched city-dwellers on Canada's wet coast that it's a big world out there, and that our little corner of it is only a tiny drop in the ocean. The article also signals how laws based on science need constant updating if they are to remain soaked in justice:

A study in 2007 proved crucial to convincing Colorado lawmakers that rain catching would not rob water owners of their rights. It found that in an average year, 97 percent of the precipitation that fell in Douglas County, near Denver, never got anywhere near a stream. The water evaporated or was used by plants.

But the deeper questions about rain are what really gnawed at rain harvesters like Todd S. Anderson, a small-scale farmer just east of Durango. Mr. Anderson said catching rain was not just thrifty — he is so water conscious that he has not washed his truck in five years — but also morally correct because it used water that would otherwise be pumped from the ground.

Mr. Anderson, a former national park ranger who worked for years enforcing rules and laws, said:

“I’m conflicted between what’s right and what’s legal. And I hate that.”


Neo said...

and on that subject, how much of the airspace over your property do you own? and what about renters? does my rent include the area outside and in the air? what if I don't want an airplane in 'my' airspace, do I have any rights? and what about the dirt, don't I actually own that too?

Charles Henry said...

I don't know about renters, Neo, but in Canada there's been problems for as long as I can remember with homeowners battling airports because of the noise in their airspace.

Here's an article from back in February about problems residents were having with the Toronto airport:


I can remember, as a child, "grown-up talk" at the family table about lawsuits against the local airport to get them to change their flight paths in consideration of residents suddenly having aircraft noise at all hours of the day and night. So it's a 30+ year battle for silence.

Dag said...

People in the Western Islands of Scotland complained about the English flying their planes around, and it gets some of my limited supply of sympathy because many of the houses out there are constructed from thatched stone, and the shock from the fighter jets blasting across the sky loosens the stones and whole houses collapse. In America, where houses are better built, planes fly across Whidby Island; the military erected a sign that seems to satisfy:

"Pardon our noise: It is a sound of freedom."