Thursday, October 20, 2016

Government Regulation

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When he is not managing the beverage company he works for, Jason Story relaxes by working in his home garden – tilling the soil, weeding the earth and growing vegetables like beets and spinach for the dinner table.

And to water his Denver, Colorado garden, Story bought a barrel to collect rain running out through the downspout of his house gutter system. Colorado has been dealing with a water shortage and he thought it would be a good way to water his garden without drawing it from the municipal water system.

He was wrong.

Under Western water rules where his home sits, raindrops belong to the government and using a barrel to collect water for his garden is tantamount to stealing making him a scofflaw subject to daily fines that could bankrupt him if they are assessed and collected.

In fact, Colorado’s water rules are stricter than those of California – a state that’s experiencing its worst drought in decades. California, which is arguably the nation’s fruit and vegetable basket, fields are browning under a merciless sun as depleted reservoirs across the region try to meet the water needs of both agriculture and personal use.

Moreover, while California is trying to limit private water use with moratoriums on watering lawns, filling swimming pools and serving water without asking at restaurants, Colorado has taken a much harder stand. Under Colorado law, regulators can impose a fine of $500 a day to anyone caught diverting rainwater for personal use.

When legislators tried to change the law to allow homeowners to harvest the rain that falls on their lands last spring, entrenched rules that allocate Western water to those who have first claim to it got in the way.

Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado Law School says:

“Water allocation doesn’t satisfy most people’s norms of fairness…” “A lot of people are clearly surprised to see that it’s a system where some people will get 100 percent of their water, and others will get zero.”

In Colorado, the rain barrel idea had bipartisan support and would have allowed homeowners to buy two 55-gallon water tanks and collect up to 650 gallons every year – the amount an average American uses in a week.

But irrigation officials and politicians representing ranchers on the state’s eastern plains saw the proposal as a threat to property rights and the water principles written into the State Constitution.

State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg called water collection “stealing” and voted against the rain barrel idea when it came up in the state Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee he leads.

“You might say, it’s a little bit of water, just a barrelful, how much damage could that do to someone downstream?” “If it’s just a little bit, why wouldn’t we allow everyone go to into 7-Eleven and take just one bottle of water, just a little bit?”

Based on this reasoning, millions of gallons of water could be pulled out of the system if the entire state caught rain-barrel fever.

Regardless of Mr. Story’s minimal request to collect rainwater falling on his property, Colorado’s Constitution and years of legal precedent have established that the hierarchy of water stems from when a farmer, public agency, company or other user draws water from the system.

Just because water flows across a person’s property – be it a river or a trickle of rainwater – does not mean the person owns it, water officials said.

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The Green girls just wanted to do something nice for their dad.

Eight-year-old Andria and seven-year-old Zoey, of Overton, Texas, had a plan to take their dad to a local water park for his special day. So they did what many enterprising youths have done in America: they set up a lemonade stand.

According to Zoey, the plan was pretty simple. “We had kettle corn and lemonade. The lemonade was for 50 cents and the kettle corn was a dollar, but if you got both it was a dollar.”

For the first hour it went pretty well, with the girls making $25, according to local TV affiliate KLTV.

That’s when Johnny Law showed up to put the kibosh on the whole operation.

Overton requires two things for an independent food vendor – a $150 “peddler’s permit” and an inspection from the local Board of Health. In the Greens’ case, the city agreed to waive the first but not the second.
Since lemonade is considered a food that requires temperature control to avoid bacteria growth, the stand falls under Texas House Bill 970 and so the stand was shut down. “We have to follow by the state health guidelines. They have to have a permit if they’re going to do the lemonade stands,” said Overton Police Chief Clyde Carter said.

This is hardly the first such closure to draw national attention.

On the flip side, hard work advocate Mike Rowe recently had a much more positive lemonade stand story to share. Rowe took the opportunity to help the young man with his stand learn a little more about how to run a business, put the customer first, and make an honest profit.

The difference in the two attitudes is stark enough to beg the question – are the Greens victims of the law of unintended consequences, or is this consequence entirely intended?



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