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17th June 2015
STEALING THEIR THUNDER • I thought I'd covered dumb water laws last week, but apparently, when it comes to Western water politics, there is always more dumbness. In Colorado, it is illegal to capture rainfall with rain barrels in your own backyard. Why? Because collecting water that has fallen out of the sky and landed directly onto your property is, according to Colorado ranchers, their lobbyists, and the politicians they cut checks to, equivalent to stealing from senior water rights holders located downstream from your home, who theoretically may otherwise have eventually gotten hold of the fraction of that rainwater that didn't evaporate or soak straight into the ground. This lawyerly bit of tortured logic is the spawn of a legal artifact from the 19th century that continues to govern water use throughout the Western U.S., which holds that whoever set up shop at a given water source the earliest has primary claim to the entirety of that water source, even if that water source is, say, the Colorado River, or any of its tributaries, or, apparently, the entire atmospheric precipitation system that feeds into them.

As one Denver resident interviewed by the Times wondered, "Where does it stop? Does that mean you own the cloud, too?"

Answer: Yup. It does, and they do.

STAYING CLASSY • If you're one of the few people left on the internet who haven't rage-clicked this piece of hate bait, make sure you're sitting down for this one. The huddled masses of Rancho Santa Fe, California, one of the richest and most wasteful towns in America, are tired of being expected to golf on brown courses and leave the acres of lawn on their estates un-manicured. "We're being overly penalized," complains one freedom fighter, riding on her show horse, Bear.

Maybe you people with your rain barrels and your shower timers should think for one moment about somebody else for a change.

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