Oregon water law allows any use that is beneficial. It forbids waste, which it defines as using more water than necessary for any beneficial use or use that benefits nobody.
Watering one’s property is not waste, even outside the irrigation season, so long as there is a good reason for it, like keeping the cracks in the ground open around a well, so water continues to flow into it.
Indeed, it is difficult to waste water by watering, except by overwatering, which makes soil so wet it is difficult for plants to grow and encourages crane flies that eat grass roots. This benefits nobody and harms the yard. Water that sinks into the soil recharges the water table and/or eventually flows through ground to the river. Water that is taken up by plants grows plants or is transpired into the air. Sprinkler watering washes plants, removing dust and fungus spores, and water that transpires or evaporates from plants and the ground makes the air cooler and more humid and makes clouds and rain. Using cleaned city water prevents contamination from E. coli and other nasty germs.
The water cycle works better if we work it. In the ‘80s, at the height of sprinkler irrigation, nearly every farm was irrigated; Grants Pass was clean and green. We had wet thunderstorms nearly every week in Grants Pass, though usually not enough to stop watering. There were bigger rain events in July and August than in June and September. There was more rain in Medford than here, and more rain in Klamath Falls than Medford, because everyone was watering, and water was building up and falling as it traveled uphill and downwind, filling creeks along the way. But we started hearing that fresh water is in short supply and we should save it, regardless of local supplies and conditions.
After 30 years of “saving” water in Grants Pass and Medford by overcharging people for using it, the situation has reversed, with smaller, fewer rain events in midsummer and dry lightning being more common than thunderstorms, making bigger, more frequent forest fires. Half of Grants Pass has gone dry, weedy, seedy, and littered, in summer because so many people stopped watering, mowing and maintaining their yards. We have yard and forest fires in the City because of that lack of maintenance. The City breeds and harvests safety hazards by abatement with a 20% admin fee profit, rather than enforcing its property maintenance codes when the nuisance is small and easy to fix.
I was told by a city staff member on several occasions that Oregon law requires tiered rates, or the state could take part of our water right. I asked him to show me that law. He could not and asked me to look for it. I did, reading the state water manual and searching Oregon water law. I found a law that says the state wishes us to save water, but no mandate to do so, and nothing about unit prices or tiered rates. I found a law which says that if a city saves enough water that it wants to do something not already in its permitted water right, it must ask the state Water Board for permission to do so. If the Board disagrees with that use, it can take that part of the city’s water right. So the only danger I could find to our city’s water right is if we save water, not if we use it beneficially.
Published at GardenGrantsPass.blogspot.com. Like Garden Grants Pass on Facebook
Gardening is easy if you do it naturally. Litter is tagging, marking the territory of the disorderly.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener 541-955-9040 email@example.com