This is fascinating. I recently heard Charlie Rose interview Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Here's a snippet from the Village Voice about the book:
In The Shock Doctrine, journalist Klein trains her sharp investigator's eye upon the flaws of neoliberal economics. This meticulously researched alternative history, ranging from economist Milton Friedman's "University of Chicago Boys" to George W. Bush, brings Klein's argument into the present. Using stirring reportage, she shows the ways that disasters— unnatural ones like the war in Iraq, and natural ones like the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina—allow governments and multinationals to take advantage of citizen shock and implement corporate-friendly policies: Where once was a Sri Lankan fishing village now stands a luxury resort. The Shock Doctrine aims its 10-foot-long middle finger at the Bush administration and the generations of neocons who've chosen profits over people in war and disaster; the effect is to provide intellectual armor for the now-mainstream anticorporatist crowd.
But what's relevant to our discussion of rain barrels is her mention of what happened in Bolivia. They privatized their water resources, with U.S. company Bechtel winning the contract, and subsequently outlawed collection of rainwater because it threatened Bechtel's profits. Here's more on the story. And here's a little video about it.