MEDFORD, Ore. — According to Oregon law, all water — including the rain and snow water — that Gary Harrington used are public and can only be collected with a permit.
In the case of Mr. Harrington, obtaining a permit was not possible because the water in his ponds would filter into Big Butte Creek, a water source in which rights can only be granted to the city of Medford.
The Oregon Department of Forestry says that Big Butte Creek has also been of extreme value to them in fighting forest fires. Fire agencies have legal right to use water from anywhere near the fire lines and officials say they make use of all nearby sources in order to get their job done.
“They are opportunistic on being able to get a hold of water that they need. Heck they have even taken water out of swimming pools,” said Brian Ballou of the Oregon Department of Forestry.
In a twist to the story, ODF has previously used the reservoirs utilized by Harrington to battle fires in the area.