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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.

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