Gary Harrington of Oregon Jailed for Illegal Rainwater Reservoirs on His Property

An Eagle Point, Ore., man has begun serving a 30-day jail sentence after he built three reservoirs on his property to collect rainwater -- an apparent violation of a state law that says all water is publicly owned.

Gary Harrington (pictured above) has collected nearly 13 million gallons of water in his reservoirs (one of which is pictured below). That's enough to fill 20 Olympic-size swimming pools. But two weeks ago, he was found guilty of breaking the 1925 Oregon law against private water collection. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and issued a $1,500 fine.

Oregon's Water Resources Department said that though it is legal to set up rainwater collection barrels on roofs or other artificial surfaces, Harrington's reservoirs go way beyond that and required permits.
"Mr. Harrington has operated these three reservoirs in flagrant violation of Oregon law for more than a decade," the department's deputy director, Tom Paul, told the Medford Mail Tribune.

The state initially approved permits for Harrington's reservoirs in 2003, but reversed its decision.

"They issued me my permits. I had my permits in hand and they retracted them just arbitrarily, basically," Harrington told "They took them back and said, 'No, you can't have them.' So I've been fighting it ever since."

Harrington has been ordered to drain his three reservoirs, something that he vows to continue fighting. He said that he is only using the rainwater for personal use and fire suppression and that the state is infringing on his rights.

"The government is bullying," he told "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."

Harrington has set up a website,, to appeal to the public for support. The site includes videos defending his reservoirs and a petition that asks for signatures and donations.

But that doesn't sway state officials.

"What we're after is compliance with Oregon water law, regardless of what the public thinks of Mr. Harrington," Paul told the Mail Tribune.

See also:
Oregon Couple Faces Tsunami-Size Fine for Pool
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High-End Homeowners Racing to Sell Before Tax Cuts End

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This is by far the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in all my life. Everything is about money even God given resources. So now there is a limit on the amount of rainwater one can collect without being fined and going to jail. So, rainwater belongs to the government now? What's next? Is there going to be a limit on the amount of sunshine one can have on personal property.

August 22 2015 at 2:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mario Villalobos

Jailed based on a 1925 law? According to this disturbing show of force by the long arm of the law, we will need to go back to the old ways. Hell, while we're at it, why not just bring back Jim Crow laws? But, you ask, why take a step backward? Well, the current (2014) politicians think that it's okay to jail someone based on a law enacted in 1925. What they don't understand (nor truly care about) is that things change. And so should those politicians who uphold these archaic and unsound laws. This is just so unbelievably sickening.

December 04 2014 at 4:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rita Salazar

Jeez If we build it on our own land, leave it alone. Greed is a massive sin.

October 29 2014 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply