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United States - July 2

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Small Towns vs. Nestlé

Jenny Tomkins, In These Times
When Nestlé Waters North America, the world's largest bottler of water, comes a-courting, promising jobs and increased tax revenues in exchange for local water rights, many small, rural towns get nervous.

Deborah Lapidus, an organizer with the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, says this skepticism stems from Henderson, Texas, which in the '90s saw Nestlé suck one of its wells dry.

"The company prioritizes its own use over the environment and other uses," says Lapidus.

As well as draining water, Nestlé also attempts to deplete these communities' finances, Lapidus says. Towns trying to defend their reservoirs have found themselves in costly legal battles. Fryeburg, Maine, for example, has been sued five times by Nestlé for "interfering with the right to grow their market share."
(28 June 2009)



It’s Now Legal to Catch a Raindrop in Colorado

Kirk Johnson, The New York Times

For the first time since territorial days, rain will be free for the catching here, as more and more thirsty states part ways with one of the most entrenched codes of the West.

Precipitation, every last drop or flake, was assigned ownership from the moment it fell in many Western states, making scofflaws of people who scooped rainfall from their own gutters. In some instances, the rights to that water were assigned a century or more ago.

Now two new laws in Colorado will allow many people to collect rainwater legally. The laws are the latest crack in the rainwater edifice, as other states, driven by population growth, drought, or declining groundwater in their aquifers, have already opened the skies or begun actively encouraging people to collect.

“I was so willing to go to jail for catching water on my roof and watering my garden,” said Tom Bartels, a video producer here in southwestern Colorado, who has been illegally watering his vegetables and fruit trees from tanks attached to his gutters. “But now I’m not a criminal.”

...Meanwhile, 20 miles south of here, in New Mexico, rainwater catchment, as the collecting is called, is mandatory for new dwellings in some places like Santa Fe.

And in Arizona, cities like Tucson are pioneering the practices of big-city rain capture. “All you need for a water harvesting system is rain, and a place to put it,” Tucson Water says on its Web site.

Here in Colorado, the old law created a kind of wink-and-nod shadow economy. Rain equipment could be legally sold, but retailers said they knew better than to ask what the buyer intended to do with the product.

...Science has also stepped forward to underline how incorrect the old sweeping legal generalizations were.

A study in 2007 proved crucial to convincing Colorado lawmakers that rain catching would not rob water owners of their rights. It found that in an average year, 97 percent of the precipitation that fell in Douglas County, near Denver, never got anywhere near a stream. The water evaporated or was used by plants.
(28 June 2009)
One of the biggest obstacles to sustainable living is antiquated laws and codes. An Australian told me that in his area, rainswater collecting went from being illegal, to being optional, to being mandatory (if you wanted to water your garden). -BA




Struggling cities cancel Fourth of July fireworks

P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times
Mayor Bill Cervenik has spent a lifetime celebrating the Fourth of July curled up on a blanket in this city's Memorial Park beneath bursts of fireworks across a darkened Ohio sky.

People have long considered the fireworks a treasure of this Cleveland suburb, where flags fly year-round in neighborhoods of bungalows and stores post signs for passersby to "support our troops."

But the fireworks and singing along to "The Star-Spangled Banner" on a warm summer night -- and the police and firefighters needed to manage the 30,000 people who turn out -- don't come cheap.

So this year, Euclid will have no fireworks. "I'm 55 years old and I can't remember not going to one of these," Cervenik said.

As the economic crisis has dragged on, city leaders around the country say fireworks are a luxury they can no longer afford. Big and small, urban and rural, the skies will remain dark over at least four dozen communities nationwide come July 4.
(29 June 2009)

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