Collecting rainwater might seem like a savvy way to save money and prevent nature’s offerings from going to waste – but is it illegal to collect and harvest rainwater for your own use?
In this guide, we’ve shared everything you need to know about the legalities of collecting rainwater in the US.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- At the moment, rainwater harvesting isn’t regulated by the federal government.
- Only two states – Colorado and Utah – heavily regulate rainwater collection and harvesting.
- It’s unlikely that rainwater harvesting will become illegal, but you should keep up-to-date with your state’s regulations for small rule changes and updates.
- Laws are known to change from time to time, so contact your local authority if you have any concerns or questions.
Table of Contents
💦 Is Collecting And Harvesting Rainwater Illegal?
The federal government doesn’t currently regulate rainwater collection or harvesting. Regulating rainwater harvesting is down to individual states, and most states don’t heavily regulate the practice.
We advise you to search on your local government’s website to learn the exact rules for collecting and harvesting rainwater in your area. Or, check our quick Rainwater Harvesting State Regulations list later in this guide.
Colorado and Utah currently have the strictest regulations on rainwater harvesting, so let’s take a look at what they are.
- In Colorado, rainwater collection is allowed in most residential properties. However, there are a few conditions that must be adhered to: only single-family or multi-family residences with 4 or fewer units can collect rainwater, and rainwater can be collected in rain barrels with a maximum combined capacity of 110 gallons. View the full list of conditions here.
- In Utah, rainwater collection is also allowed, but only with the following qualifiers: a person must register their water use with the Utah Division of Water Rights, the total capacity of stored water shouldn’t exceed 2,500 gallons, each container of water shouldn’t exceed 100 gallons, and the water can only be used on the land in which it is collected. Find out more about collecting rainwater in Utah here.
🤔 Why Do Some States Strictly Regulate Rainwater Collection?
There are a few reasons why some states regulate rainwater collection more strictly than others.
For instance, without regulations on the amount of rainwater that could be caught, some large organizations could exploit their right to collect water by catching and harvesting hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, which could then be used for commercial or industrial advantage.
Some states may also experience issues with droughts and water shortages, so collecting large volumes of water could have an effect on the already depleted natural surface water and groundwater supplies. BUT, most states affected by drought actively encourage rainwater collection as a means of water conservation.
🪣 Will Harvesting Rainwater Become Illegal?
We know that rainwater harvesting is legal in all states – but is there a chance that it could become illegal in the future?
It’s unlikely that rainwater harvesting restrictions will be implemented in the future. Rainwater harvesting is simply a means of using one of the earth’s natural resources.
Plus, using a rainwater harvesting system is economically and environmentally friendly since it reduces the demand for municipal water and helps cut costs and energy used for public drinking water treatment.
In fact, many states now provide incentive programs for rainwater harvesting, and organizations like the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) provide assistance, information, and training for people who want to install rainwater harvesting systems at home.
In recent years, we’ve seen regions with the most stringent state rainwater harvesting laws relaxing their regulations or getting their regulations removed entirely.
📑 All State Regulations on Rainwater Harvesting
Below, we’ve shared the current rainwater harvesting regulations for all the US states:
- Alabama – There are no current regulations against rainwater collection and harvesting in this state.
- Alaska – Rainwater harvesting is legal, with no regulations. Rainwater is a primary source of water for many residents.
- Arizona – Collecting rainwater is legal for any use in this state.
- Arkansas – Collecting rainwater in a barrel for any use has no restrictions.
- California – As of the Rainwater Capture Act of 2012, rooftop rainwater harvesting is legal, and no permit is required.
- Colorado – Up to 110 gallons of rainwater can be collected, but water can’t be used for drinking or any other indoor use.
- Connecticut – No restrictions on rainwater harvesting, and residents are encouraged to harvest rainwater as a method of water conservation and sustainable stormwater management.
- Delaware – Doesn’t currently restrict rainwater harvesting, and collected rain can be used for any indoor or outdoor use.
- Florida – No laws or regulations against harvested rainwater, and the state highly encourages rainwater collection systems (some municipalities offer tax incentives).
- Georgia – Legal but closely regulated. According to Georgia’s plumbing code, rainwater harvesting practices are allowed, but collected rain can only be used outdoors.
- Hawaii – Individual exterior rainwater catchment systems aren’t regulated, and homeowners can take action to make collected water safe for use.
- Idaho – Residents can legally capture rainwater in private water systems as long as the rain hasn’t entered a natural waterway.
- Illinois – Legal but with some restrictions. A rainwater collection system must be constructed in compliance with the Illinois Plumbing Code and collected rainwater can only be used for non-potable purposes.
- Indiana – No restrictions or regulations, and the state highly encourages residents to utilize rainwater harvesting.
- Iowa – Rainwater harvesting is legal and not restricted in any way.
- Kansas – Legal, and no permit is required if the collected water is used in a private property for domestic purposes.
- Kentucky – No regulations against rainwater harvesting at this time.
- Louisiana – Rainwater collection is legal, but large collection tanks (cisterns) require covers.
- Maine – No laws or regulations forbid the use of a harvested rainwater system.
- Maryland – No regulations for rainwater harvesting, and some counties offer incentives for rainwater harvesting.
- Massachusetts – No restrictions or regulations, but some counties may require inspection of rainwater capture systems by the local Board of Health if used for a drinking water supply.
- Michigan – Homeowners are encouraged to collect and harvest rainwater.
- Minnesota – No state-specific restrictions in place for rainwater harvesting and use, but residents must only collect rainwater from a roof surface.
- Mississippi – No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at the moment.
- Missouri – There are no legal restrictions and residents can collect as much water as desired (no maximum storage capacity).
- Montana – No laws or restrictions; residents are encouraged to conserve water by collecting and harvesting rainwater.
- Nebraska – There are no statewide laws for collecting and harvesting water in this state.
- Nevada – It was illegal to collect rainwater in this state until 2017. Now, rainwater can be collected for non-potable domestic use.
- New Hampshire – Rainwater collection and harvesting are legal and encouraged in this state.
- New Jersey – Harvesting water from roof surfaces is allowed and there are no regulations in place.
- New Mexico – There are no restrictions and rainwater harvesting is highly incentivized, but some rainwater harvesting systems need a permit.
- New York – No restrictions or laws preventing residents from rainwater harvesting. Harvesting water in rain barrels is legal and encouraged.
- North Carolina – Due to water conservation efforts, rainwater harvesting is encouraged.
- North Dakota – Rainwater harvesting is allowed, but a water permit is required for the collection and use of rainwater for industrial or commercial purposes, or for irrigation of more than 5 acres of land.
- Ohio – Rainwater harvesting is legal, even if the water will be used as a primary water supply for drinking. However, private water systems are regulated by the state.
- Oklahoma – There are no laws or regulations against rainwater harvesting.
- Oregon – Residents can legally collect rainwater in a rain barrel, as long as it’s from rooftop surfaces.
- Pennsylvania – Rainwater harvesting is legal, and the government even offers tax incentives for up to 10% of the cost of the installation of cisterns.
- Rhode Island – There are no restrictions against rainwater harvesting, but the state’s plumbing code requires that rainwater is only collected from approved materials and above-ground impervious roof surfaces.
- South Carolina – Rainwater collection and harvesting are encouraged and legal in this state.
- South Dakota – There are no laws against collecting rainwater as long as the amount collected doesn’t exceed 25,920 gallons of water per day.
- Tennessee – Rainwater can be collected for domestic uses as long as it isn’t used for drinking.
- Texas – Rainwater systems are highly encouraged and some counties offer tax incentives for the purchase of rainwater harvesting systems.
- Utah – Rainwater harvesting is legal, but the total capacity of stored water shouldn’t exceed 2,500 gallons, and a permit is required.
- Vermont – There are no laws or regulations against rainwater harvesting.
- Virginia – Rainwater collection and harvesting are legal, and residents who install rainwater harvesting systems can receive tax credits.
- Washington – Rainwater can be legally harvested but must be used on the property where it is collected.
- West Virginia – Rainwater harvesting is legal in this state, as long as water is used for non-potable purposes.
- Wisconsin – Rainwater harvesting supply systems are allowed, but there are a few laws that control the uses of harvested rainwater.
- Wyoming – There are no laws or regulations against rainwater harvesting.
📝 Final Word
In most states, collecting rainwater for any purpose is legal, with some local authorities promoting rainwater harvesting by offering incentives such as government subsidies.
If you’re concerned or uncertain about any type of rainwater or groundwater harvesting in your area, contact your local authority.