Rainwater harvesting is an excellent means of conserving water and reducing utility costs. By simply installing a system that 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
- Alabama: no regulation
- Alaska: no regulation
- Arizona: no regulation
- Arkansas: some regulation
- California: some regulation
- Colorado: some regulation
- Connecticut: no regulation
- Delaware: no regulation
- Florida: no regulation
- Georgia: some regulation
- Hawaii: no regulation
- Idaho: no regulation
- Illinois: some regulation
- Indiana: no regulation
- Iowa: no regulation
- Kansas: some regulation
- Kentucky: no regulation
- Louisiana: no regulation
- Maine: no regulation
- Maryland: no regulation
- Massachusetts: no regulation
- Michigan: no regulation
- Minnesota: no regulation
- Mississippi: no regulation
- Missouri: no regulation
- Montana: no regulation
- Nebraska: no regulation
- Nevada: some regulation
- New Hampshire: no regulation
- New Jersey: no regulation
- New Mexico: no regulation
- New York: no regulation
- North Carolina: some regulation
- North Dakota: no regulation
- Ohio: some regulation
- Oklahoma: no regulation
- Oregon: some regulation
- Pennsylvania: no regulation
- Rhode Island: no regulation
- South Carolina: no regulation
- South Dakota: no regulation
- Tennessee: no regulation
- Texas: some regulation
- Utah: some regulation
- Vermont: no regulation
- Virginia: no regulation
- Washington: no regulation
- West Virginia: no regulation
- Wisconsin: no regulation
- Wyoming: no regulation
Is it Illegal to Collect Rainwater?
US citizens who want to set up a rainwater harvesting system in their backyard can do so without the fear of legal consequences provided that they adhere to their state's guidelines. 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 freely 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.
Rainwater Collecting Laws for Each State
Alabama: no regulation
Alaska: no regulation
Arizona: no regulation
Arkansas: some regulation
California: some regulation
Colorado: some regulation
Delaware: no regulation
Georgia: some regulation
Illinois: some regulation
Louisiana: no regulation
Massachusetts: no regulation
Rainwater harvesting is legal and encouraged by the State of Massachusetts.
Mississippi: no regulation
Missouri: no regulation
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Missouri and highly encouraged.
Montana: no regulation
Nevada: some regulation
New Hampshire: no regulation
New Jersey: no regulation
New Mexico: no regulation
Rainwater harvesting is legal and highly encouraged in the State of New Mexico.
New York: no regulation
Rainwater harvesting is legal, encouraged, and even taught in the State of New York.
North Carolina: some regulation
North Dakota: no regulation
While North Dakota does have some strict laws regarding other water sources, rainwater harvesting is legal and encouraged.
Oklahoma: no regulation
Oregon: some regulation
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.
Rhode Island: no regulation
South Carolina: no regulation
South Dakota: no regulation
Tennessee: no regulation
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Tennessee. SB 2417 / HB 1850 (Enacted) allows for the use of green infrastructure practices which includes rainwater harvesting systems.
Texas: some regulation
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.
Utah: some regulation
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)
Vermont: no regulation
Rainwater collection is legal in the State of Vermont.
Virginia: no regulation
Washington: no regulation
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.
West Virginia: no regulation
Rainwater harvesting is legal in West Virginia.
Wisconsin: no regulation
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Wisconsin.
Wyoming: no regulation
Rainwater harvesting is legal in Wyoming.
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