A U.S. man was sent to prison for collecting rain water on his own property.

Trust me, I took me a moment to figure out what was going on as well.

In my head, I had the stereotype that an American could do whatever they damn well wanted on their own property – including the right (in some parts) to shoot on site if you trespass. And no one can own the rain over their cold, wet hands. 

This all went down in the town of Grey Point, Oregon, where the government had just decided that it now owns the water that falls from the sky.

Or does it?

Gary Harrington faces 30 days in prison and a $1,500 fine for his involvement in collecting the government-owned, falling-from-the-sky water in a rain catchment system on his own property. The catchment system was made up of three reservoirs.

I should mention that Harrington is from rural Oregon where it is not uncommon in the past, but now illegal, to collect a little rain water — not to make white lightning or anything, but to water plants. The judge has given him two weeks to report to Jackson County jail.

This dispute over the water started in 2002 when state water managers came onto his property to inform him of complaints (by who?) against him because he was collecting water on his 170 acres of land.

Gary Harrington 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.  

In an interview on Thursday with CNS News, Harrington was silver-tongued regarding his personal predicament. He told reporters, “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. 

According to state law, all water is actually publicly-owned and if anyone wants to store it, they must apply for a permit first — I don’t see taxation or a tacked on cost on such permits to be reality.

And in fact, Harrington had applied for the three necessary permits only to have the state turn around and deny them later, then sentence an old man to 30 days in jail for trying to do the right thing by getting permits in the first place.

You can hide a lot on 170 acres of land, but Harrington chose to willingly let the government know what he was doing when he first applied for them.

According to his understanding, “legally the case stems from a 1925 law that states that the Meadford City, Oregon, holds exclusive rights to all ‘core sources of water’ in the Big Butte creek and watersheds.”

Harrington told CNSNews.com, however, that the 1925 law doesn’t mention anything about collecting rainwater or snow melt — and he believes that he has been falsely accused. 

So who owns the rain again?

Krystalline Kraus

krystalline kraus is an intrepid explorer and reporter from Toronto, Canada. A veteran activist and journalist for rabble.ca, she needs no aviator goggles, gas mask or red cape but proceeds fearlessly...