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SF Bay Area water company offers $100 rebates to increase rainwater collection and conserve water supply


Rainwater collection

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(NaturalNews) The San Francisco Bay Area has been on the forefront of promoting sustainability with food and, now, water. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently instituted real estate property discounts and exemptions to property owners who maintain food gardens on their land.

Now, the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) is granting $100 rebates for purchases rainwater collection barrels, and potentially more, for property owners who collect rainwater for their own use in the areas just outside San Francisco.

Both of these efforts make good ecological sustainability sense, providing a legal platform for urban food gardening for both personal and commercial use, which is completely contrary to what's going on in most of the nation. Collecting rainwater for personal use is not even permitted in some Western states.

But the BAWSCA program doesn't just legalize it; this agency is encouraging it with a rebate system and guidelines for installing a rain-catch system with a reservoir tank. Just in time for the usual winter rainy season in northern California.

The rain barrel rebate program explained

BAWSCA covers most of San Mateo County, which is the southern section of the SF Bay Area south of San Francisco, and parts of Alameda County (think Oakland) due east of SF as well as a few other areas.

The rebates are usually $100 per rain barrel with a two-barrel limit for single-family residences. Up to four barrels are allowed for multi-family dwellings and commercial properties.

Each barrel holds 50 to 55 gallons, and all one needs is one barrel to start with. To qualify, a home owner needs to provide a rain barrel receipt and show photos of how it's set up outside the dwelling. When a rain barrel is full, it weighs over 400 pounds, so it needs to be set on a solid platform. The BASCA website has rain barrel arrangement standards set to ensure that rain catchers are for real and comply with their safety standards.

BAWSCA supplies an application form [PDF] with complete instructions and guidelines that are checked after installation. It can take up to eight weeks to process, and rebates are either paid by checks or credited to the applicants' water service accounts.

Some areas still in the rain-catching stone age

A few areas still make private rain-catching illegal. One fellow in Oregon spent 30 days in jail and paid a $1,500 fine for openly challenging this 1920s law. Gary Harrington, a.k.a. the "Rain Man," reportedly built three reservoirs, which hold some 13 million gallons of water for his own personal use.

He stocked one of the reservoirs with large-mouth bass. And he was prepared to share his water wealth from all three reservoirs to fight wildfires in the area near Medford. Based on a 1925 law, the state claims that it owns all water rights and that Gary was diverting water that should drain into the Big Butte Creek watershed governed by the nearby city of Medford.

Apparently, Gary has established himself as a bit of a property rights folk hero who is resisting Big Government. He even addressed a crowd that had gathered outside the Jackson County Jail as he entered to serve his sentence, encouraging others to resist Big Brother.

Of course, Oregon Water Resources Department Deputy Director Tom Paul disagrees: "Mr. Harrington has operated these three reservoirs in flagrant violation of Oregon law for more than a decade. What we're after is compliance with Oregon water law, regardless of what the public thinks of Mr. Harrington."

Colorado had a similar law until a 2007 study determined that private rain-catching was good for water conservation. Now, it's legal in Colorado under certain guidelines.

Sources:

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com

http://bawsca.org

http://www.bawsca.org [PDF]

http://www.nytimes.com

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