There was a news piece recently about an Oregon man who was charged with the crime of catching rainwater and using it to irrigate his property, and to prevent fires on the largely wooded acreage, as he has been doing for 20 years, he says. The local government is the plaintiff in the case.
If I were called to mediate that dispute, I would ask the government official a lot of open-ended questions about when the concern over the rainwater originated, what precipitated (a little pun intended) the concern of the property owner catching and using rainwater now, and the effects that the government official saw as prohibitive towards any other agency or aspect of the water and land departments resulting from the property owners actions. I would also research other initiatives that are taking place in the local government that would provide a window into a larger concern and movement within the government that would help the property owner to understand a bigger picture of need than just his property. It’s always about need, isn’t it? Someone becomes needy in some area of their work or their personal lives, and goes about trying to satisfy that need in a way that affects other people in a random way.
Some event happened that changed the position of the government towards the legality of the property owner continuing to catch and use rainwater. Arguing the legality of the property owner’s actions has to be done in a court of law, but the real reason behind the action to prosecute won’t necessarily come out in court. Knowing why this is now an issue is far more important than whether it’s legal or not if the property owner want s win-win solution that won’t haunt him again in the near future.
There can be a number of reasons why; maybe none of them have to do directly with the property owner. Maybe the property owner is a casualty for another reason. If that reason is defined and rooted out, you never know if another solution can be determined that will allow the property owner to continue his lifelong practice of catching rainwater while helping the government to get what they need, as well.
If you can let the fear and anger pass through you, and move away from the shock of the situation, you may be able to get the perpetrator to relax and open up to you so that you can help problem solve together.