I forgot my usual Inkstain link last week to a piece I wrote for the newspaper about the strange world of rainwater harvesting law in New Mexico. David Zetland was on about this last September, asking about the legality of rainwater harvesting in various U.S. states. My short answer, in the comments, was, essentially “kinda sorta maybe” for New Mexico.
My longer answer, in last Tuesday’s Albuquerque Journal, was that it depends on what you’re using the water for (some sort of sub. or ad maybe req.):
This goes back to the first part of the state’s policy: the rule that when you’re capturing rainwater, you can’t reduce the runoff that would have come off your property “in its natural, pre-development state.”
In the strange world of water law, the portion of the rain and snow that falls on your property that would have run off before it was developed isn’t yours. It belongs in a legal sense to the myriad water rights holders downstream from you. It can be used by farmers and cities that have a pre-existing right to draw water from the state’s rivers and streams for their use. Or the water can be used to meet New Mexico’s legal obligations under the Rio Grande Compact to deliver water to Texas.