It is no doubt that rainwater harvesting is an excellent means of conserving water and reducing utility costs. By simply installing a system which collects a naturally occurring resource, one could utilize the earth’s hydrological cycle to their own benefit.
With instances of individuals facing legal consequences for their rainwater harvesting endeavors in some states, the idea of rainwater harvesting being an illegal activity has quickly gained traction across the internet.
But is it illegal to collect rainwater or have some of these stories been exaggerated?
In this article, we’ll uncover the truth about the legality of rainwater harvesting and provide information on the specific laws for each state.
- Is it Illegal to Collect Rainwater?
- Rainwater Collecting Laws for Each State
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Is it Illegal to Collect Rainwater?
Most US citizens who want to setup a rainwater harvesting system in their backyard can do so without the fear of legal consequence. The Federal Government does not have any restrictions on rainwater harvesting. Some states have minor regulations in terms of the amount of rainwater collecting and the means by which it is collected, but most states allow their citizens to collect rainwater while others even encourage it.
Some government restriction on rainwater harvesting is based on the rationale that it may disrupt the hydrologic cycle. It's been believed that the collection of rainwater would halt the rainfall’s natural flow into the earth’s aquifers and streams. However, a study published by the Scientific World Journal shows that the amount of rainwater collected by individual homes would have little to no effect on the hydrologic cycle on a macro-level. In fact, since most collected rainwater would be used for gardening and household purposes, the water would eventually be returned to the ground anyway.
Other reasons for government restriction are based on old laws known as prior appropriation, which were implemented as a first-come, first-serve basis for settlers in the Old West.
Organizations such as the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) work with state governments in making rainwater collection an available option for its citizens.
Most states have shifted their laws in favor of private rainwater harvesting. Colorado, the state with arguably the strictest rainwater harvesting laws, passed a bill in 2016 allowing for the collection of rainwater with a 110-gallon maximum capacity. At this rate, it is likely that most states will trend towards favoring rainwater collection, and it is highly unlikely that the federal government will enforce any restriction.
Rainwater Collecting Laws for Each State
While rainwater collecting is Federally legal, it is worth observing the state regulations, if any, for limitations and methods of collecting. The information gathered for this article was taken from state websites and legislative documents and was current at the time of publication. We will do our best to keep this list updated. But because laws are constantly changing, please check with your state for further information.
Rainwater harvesting is legal and encouraged by the State of Massachusetts.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Missouri and highly encouraged.
Rainwater harvesting is legal and highly encouraged in the State of New Mexico.
Rainwater harvesting is legal, encouraged, and even taught in the State of New York.
While North Dakota does have some strict laws regarding other water sources, rainwater harvesting is legal and encouraged.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Oregon, but may only be collected from a catchment system on rooftop surfaces. The state gives some approval for alternate methods of construction of rainwater harvesting systems, but legal advice should be sought before attempting to construct any system on private property.
It is completely legal to harvest rainwater South Carolina, and is in fact encouraged by the state.
While South Dakota does have quite a few statutes on water rights, rainwater harvesting is completely legal.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Tennessee. SB 2417 / HB 1850 (Enacted) allows for the use of green infrastructure practices which includes rainwater harvesting systems.
It is legal to harvest rainwater in Texas. There are several provisions in House Bill 3391 which should be noted, such as the requirement the catchment system being incorporate into the design of the building and the requirement to give a written notice to the municipality.
The State of Utah authorizes the direct collection of rainwater on land owned or leased by the person responsible for the collection. According to Senate Bill 32 (2010), a person registered with the Division of Water Resources cannot store more than 2,500 gallons of rainwater. If unregistered, no more than two containers may be used, and the maximum capacity of any one container may not exceed 100 gallons (Utah Code Ann. §73-3-1.5)
Rainwater collection is legal in the State of Vermont.
Senate Bill 1416 (2001) established the Alternative Water Supply Assistance Fund, providing an income tax credit to those who install rainwater harvesting systems. The State of Virginia also requires the development of rainwater harvesting guidelines to reduce demands on water supply systems and to promote conservation (Va. Code § 32.1-248.2).
Rainwater collection is legal in the State of Washington and even authorizes counties to reduce rates for stormwater control facilities that utilize rainwater harvesting, by 10 percent or more according to Wash. Rev. Code §36.89.080. The Washington Department of Ecology issued an Interpretive Policy Statement clarifying that a water permit is not required for rooftop rainwater harvesting.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in West Virginia.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Wisconsin.
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Wyoming.
Thank you for taking the time to read our article on answering the question: is it illegal to collect rainwater? We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. If you've found this article to be useful and are interested in learning more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Share this post!
Energy.gov. (n.d.). Rainwater Harvesting Regulations Map | Department of Energy. Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/eere/femp/rainwater-harvesting-regulations-map
Enlight Inc. (n.d.). Rainwater harvesting regulations state by state | Rain water harvesting and slow sand water filters. Retrieved from http://www.enlight-inc.com/blog/?p=1036
Find Law. (n.d.). Water Rights Law: Prior Appropriation - FindLaw. Retrieved from https://corporate.findlaw.com/business-operations/water-rights-law-prior-appropriation.html
NCBI. (2014, February 18). Sustainability of Rainwater Harvesting System in terms of Water Quality. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3948194/
NCSL. (2018, February 2). State Rainwater Harvesting Laws and Legislation. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/rainwater-harvesting.aspx
Perfect Water. (2018, September 13). Rainwater Harvesting Laws You Need to Know About | PerfectWater? Retrieved from https://4perfectwater.com/blog/rainwater-harvesting-laws/
Pioneer Water Tanks. (2018, May 31). Is it illegal to collect rainwater in your state? Retrieved from https://pioneerwatertanksamerica.com/is-it-illegal-to-collect-rainwater-in-your-state/
- How to Collect Rainwater on Your Rural Homestead - August 20, 2020
- The 18 Best Water Storage Containers for Emergencies in 2020 - July 26, 2020
- The 10 Best Well Pressure Tanks and How to Size Them  - July 23, 2020