A Tax on Rainwater?

Over the past year there has been much debate in Australia over the idea of a rainwater tax for residential properties. It all seems to have started over a leaked Federal Government email by National Water Commission chief, Ken Matthews, suggesting that "Legally, all water in Australia is vested in governments."

Mr Mathews goes on to say:

"Governments have not yet considered the capture of water from roofs in rainwater tanks to be of sufficient magnitude to warrant the issuing of specific entitlements to use this class of water.

"However, if rainwater tanks were to be adopted on a large scale such that their existence impacts significantly on the integrated water cycle, consideration could be given to setting an entitlement regime for this class of water."


You can read the full article about the email and its subsequent discussion in this report by the Herald Sun dated January 14, 2007.

I can certainly understand the logic of Government ownership of rainwater and how, if residential properties were all to start collecting rainwater in greater quantities, it would affect storm water run off and ground water levels. However the idea to put a tax on rainwater is counter productive.

Many Australian state governments have been encouraging the use of rainwater tanks, even offering rebates to have them installed and plumbed into the water supply of residential properties. To put a tax on the collection of rainwater would be like having to pay back the rebate and then keep on paying for doing the environmentally sound thing of installing a rainwater tank.

To think that we might have to pay extra could be argument enough for uninstalling the tank and relying entirely on mains water. Next stop - increase the price of mains water usage?

In a country like Australia rain water isn't a reliable service. The whole point of capturing rain water is to take the pressure off our dams and other water supplies when they don't receive enough rain. Is the government likely to tax us on the actual amount of rain water we collect or are they likely to tax us on the size of our rainwater tanks regardless of whether the rain comes or not. The latter could be argument two for uninstalling the tank.

A tax on rainwater might be valid if we were literally sucking the moisture out of the air. Farming clouds. However we're not. We're simply collecting water as it falls from the sky. It's almost as silly as taxing people for using solar power. The more solar panels you have the more tax you pay.

If you're going to tax people for being environmentally responsible in a way that the government has encouraged then ultimately you are taking a step backwards. A tax is not a benefit for doing the right thing. A tax is something that should be applied to people and industries that persist in being environmentally irresponsible.

I did read that the current Federal Government had moved to assure people that tax on rainwater wasn't likely to occur in the foreseeable future but just lately I've heard some politician on the news raise the issue again, warning that it could happen?

I can tell you that any government that thinks this is a good idea had better make a really good case for it because, on the face of it, they would lose my vote entirely.

8 comments:

  1. What about the last bit of the email too! ie:

    Mr Matthews said in his email: "It is important to think of the capture of water from any source in an integrated way.

    "If 1000 homes were to install 5000-litre tanks with an annual yield of 57,000 litres, this is 57 million litres that would not have reached a river or ground water system, or - viewed another way - is taken from either the environment's entitlement or another productive use."

    This is like being penalised for having water dropping out of the sky - which is for all of us to use, by Nature's or God's plan for the Earth!

    You could say that the water that lands on our gardens or on farmers' land doesn't reach other capture areas either for their entitlements! Rain is for everyone, the government doesn't own it!

    There'll be tax on electricity next!

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  2. I certainly agree that the government doesn't own rainwater any more than it owns the air we breathe.

    Though I think maybe there is a tax on electricity since that isn't a natural resource. Perhaps you mean solar electricity?

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  3. I thought electricity was a natural resource - I mean - it was always there ie: lightning in a thunderstorm?

    Maybe it was just man that harnessed its power for his own resources, but it was there, man didn't make it or invent it.

    What are those metal rods that you stand apart that creates an electric field between it, that's natural electricity isn't it?

    That's what I thought anyway.

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  4. True, electricity does occur naturally but the electricity we use in our homes is generated by power stations it isn't collected from the environment.

    A power station turns one form of energy into another. For example a Solar cell uses the energy from sunlight to create electricity.

    A tax on lightening would be interesting if we collected and stored electricity from electrical storms.

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  5. If they're going to do that then they should consider all of the rain that soaks into people's clothes or is captured in the mouths of children playing in the rain. I mean, that's a form of rainwater capturing isn't it? I think the values would be significant if added up.

    While we're at it, The government also owns the air, they should totally start charging a tax for people to breath it.

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  6. One of the things I was going to say in this article but didn't is ...what next, a tax on air? The whole idea of a tax on rain water is silly but it wouldn't surprise me if it happened some day.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi David,
    There are areas in Hawaii that get all of their water by catchment. As a matter of fact some of those areas are totally off the grid. They use solar as well. I think more people should go this way. But, like you mentioned here, the govt will find a way to get money out of it.
    In America we have emissions on our vehicles. everyone who has a car has to pay to have their vehicle emission tested, so in an abstract way we are paying a tax for our air. When you figure out how many ways our dollar is taxed, it's like we wind up with 10 cents on the dollar. Money that we actually get to keep.
    You are taxed when you get your check, taxed when you spend the dollar, taxed at tax time. And god forbid you get a tax refund, because the next year even that money is taxed! So it's taxed a second time! All of your savings intrest is taxed. it's out of hand. Oh and if you have money in the bank and want to get some of it dont forget the whopping $3.00 Atm Transaction fee!
    It's time for people to have another Boston tea party here in America. LOL
    Sherri

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  8. I can understand the logic of a tax on emissions by vehicles Sherri. It seems like a way to discourage people from polluting the air. However collection of rain water is an environmentally responsible thing to do. You really need to give people incentives not deterrents for being 'green'.

    I recently saw the movie 'The Corporation' which contained a story where a country actually privatized their rain water. Meaning that everyone had to pay to use rainwater. It eventually lead to a massive uprising because people had to choose between things like buying less food in order to buy water, or not sending kids to school etc. Thankfully the uprising of the people proved successful and rainwater became freely available again. It's a practical example of how silly taxing rain water is.

    I do agree that it sounds like you need another Boston tea party. A tax on your tax refund - that is totally out of hand!

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