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Who Owns Rain Water?

Australia is a parched continent.

And, it has been that way for a very, very long time because regular rainfall on this continent is fickle.

Aboriginal people, living Australia long before European Settlement, understood this and were assiduous in preserving their natural sources of water. In Cranky Lizard’s experience, which is centred around the North of Australia and Central Australia, they went to great lengths to protect their various sources of water, leaving small piles of stones to indicate, to those who understood the message, that water was close and available.

In their stories, there has never been any suggestion that water was wasted although there were territorial disputes, resolved by violence if necessary, over the rights and usage of water: sound familiar?

Human beings cannot make water in large quantities. We can distil water, we can make potable water from seawater, we can shift water around through the use of pipes and pumps, we can filter greywater and sewerage into fresh, clean water by the use of various technologies that are available to us, we can store water in large dams and reservoirs, we can use the kinetic energy stored in water to make electrical energy – but we cannot make water.

Cranky Lizard knows that it is redundant to comment that water is life – but it is!

Without water, human life cannot exist.

All of the water available to humans falls onto the Earth in the form of rain, or dew or maybe even snow. Whichever way you describe it, precipitation, dew or snow is a gift from nature delivered according to the vagaries of weather patterns; all of which are totally beyond the command of humans. Where it falls and how much of it falls is not decided by humans. Cranky Lizard is aware of the seeding technology applied to clouds to force rain but, frankly….have we ever produced regular quantities of rainfall from this process? Cranky Lizard thinks not!!!

Cranky Lizard has been galvanized into print over the outrageous and impossibly arrogant presumption of some State Governments; namely the Queensland State Government and the South Australian State Government that they own the rain that falls on a farmer’s property and is being stored in dams on that property.

Since the Federation of the Australian States in 1901, rights to water which has fallen as rain on private land has been held in common law in Australia and, indeed, the Commonwealth of Australia still upholds that position. The rainwater which falls on private property belongs to the owner or occupier of the property.

Much has already printed about these matters, many meetings have been held with bureaucrats from various Local Government bodies, explanations have been offered, waffle has been waffled in vast quantities: Cranky Lizard read one reason for this water levy was to enable work to be done with farmers on the Northern Plains in relation to climate change!!

Now, what does that bloody mean? It is gobbledygook, that is what it is.

Think about those words for a moment; “ work to be done with farmers on the Northern Plains in relation to climate change. “

Cranky Lizard can find no evidence of any work being done on the Northern Plains of South Australia in relation to climate change that can be associated with charging landholders on the Fleurieu Peninsula for rain falling on their land. Just can’t find it !! That does not mean it is not happening – just can’t find it.

Nevertheless, there is a case for charging for water provided by Government Utilities to the general public and industry for domestic and industrial purposes.

Obviously, there are costs associated with processing water, distributing water through networks of pipelines and sophisticated pumping machinery to move the water and to maintain some reasonable pressure in the pipes so when water is delivered to households and factories, it can be put to sensible use.

And, all that is as it should be.

So, let us shift our focus back onto the fact of rain falling on a farmer’s land. Since Federation, as previously mentioned, rainwater falling on farming properties nourished natural pasture, moisturised the soil allowing for intensive broad acre farming of grain crops and provided water for domestic use by farmer’s as they captured water from roofs of houses and sheds and was considered to be a part of the natural farming cycle of life.

Rainwater was also collected in dams, built by farmers at their own expense and distributed about their properties by pipes and pumps, again provided at their own expense.

In good weather cycles, rainfall was regular and plentiful and in poor weather cycles, and in Australia there are plenty of them, rainfall was sparse and irregular. Continued successful crop production and livestock grazing was dependent upon the water collected during the good years and used during the poor years.

Cranky Lizard points out that the production of food, which is what farming and grazing is all about, is not a hobby. It is a huge economic enterprise generating vast export income and creating employment for tens of thousands of Australians.

Cranky Lizard can find no evidence of any substantial Government investment, whatever the level, Local, State or Commonwealth, on private farming or grazing land to assist the farmers and graziers with the cost of capturing and distributing water around their properties.

Nada, none, nyet, rien, zip,……………………..nothing. No evidence. Nothing.

So, where then, does the moral authority come from to charge for rain falling on private land?

There is none.

The motivation, therefore, must be greed. A grasping bureaucratic mind casting about to find ways of increasing Local Government or State Government revenue.

And for what purpose?

Cranky Lizard points out, as did Kerry Packer, that governments do not spend the money they raise in taxes all that well anyway, [ a subject for attention from Cranky Lizard on another day. ]

So what the hell are they doing grubbing about in farmers water tanks or dams?

There is no moral justification, By-Laws or regulations enabling revenue collection from rain is flawed simply because the legislation relies upon subjective information – how much rain fell here? How much rain fell there? What is stored in this dam? What is the volume of water in those pipes?

Sure, rain gauges can be deployed and there are instruments which are triggered by rainfall and can send information regarding the density of the rain and the time it rains – of course, there is. But these instruments are locality specific, and rain falling on one instrument will not indicate accurate rainfall in another part of the farm. Just can’t be done.

How are they going to know? Spend thousands on employing water inspectors to bumble about on farms and grazing land, hiding behind some spurious badge, declaring some authority to judge the rainfall levels.

The whole idea is bordering on Goon Show proportions.

And what of the yabbies that live in the walls of farm dams? Are they the next subject of interest?

A yabbie tax?

Local Council elections are approaching. Cranky Lizard suggests that you may wish to ask candidates some questions about these matters; questions that require answers and questions that are attached to votes.

Enjoy your days. Life is good and there is plenty of it about.

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