Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater? Find Out Here

Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater

As water resources are getting scarcer, more people turn to rainwater collection. This activity has been around for centuries, but it saw a steep rise in the recent years. In both rural and urban areas, people started harvesting water for a multitude of purposes, such as farming, washing vehicles, cleaning the house, drinking, showering, and so forth.

While the need for rainwater harvesting is on the rise, there is one question on everyone’s mind. Is it illegal to collect rainwater?

According to the U.S. federal government, there are no legal restrictions that prevent homesteads from collecting rainwater. Furthermore, certain states, such as Rhode Island and Virginia, encourage rainwater harvesting by providing tax deductions for acquired equipment.

A similar situation exists in most democratic countries. Countries like Canada, UK, and Australia allow to collect rainwater freely. And just like in the United States, local governments encourage this trend, as long as people abide by predetermined standards.

There is more to explore on this subject. In the following article I will list rainwater regulations from all 50 states, as well as from several countries around the globe. Let’s begin.

Table of Contents

Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater in the USA?

It is not illegal to collect rainwater in the USA. The American government does not apply strict laws that stop people from rainwater harvesting. Some parts of United States even give a tax credit for purchased rainwater-collecting items.

That said, a few states do have laws that partially restrict how much rainwater is allowed to be collected, as well as what methods of rainwater harvesting are permitted.

The reasoning behind these restrictions is the concern that collecting rainwater prevents it from flowing back into rivers and lakes, thus harming natural water cycles. However, many studies point out that rainwater harvesting has a very negligent impact on the environment, and the rainwater used by individuals for gardening eventually returns to Earth’s water supply, either through soil or by evaporating.

With that said, let’s take a look at the laws and rules for water collecting in every state of the USA.

State Legality of Rainwater Collection
Alabama In Alabama, rainwater collection is legal and considered a “private property right”. Additionally, Alabama Water Resources Commission strongly recommends collecting rainwater as a part of water conservation initiative.
Alaska In Alaska, rainwater harvesting is legal and widely practiced among Alaskans. The state of Alaska regards water as a public resource and permits the public to enjoy its benefits.
Arizona Rainwater can be legally harvested in Arizona to be used outside the house, as a non-drinkable resource. In several cities, incentives are offered to residents who harvest rainwater.
Arkansas While rainwater collection is legal in Arkansas, some restrictions are applied. The rainwater can be harvested only if the system is designed by an engineer, follows the local Plumbing Code, and not used for drinking.
California According to the Rainwater Capture Act, it’s completely legal to collect rainwater in the state of California. The Act outlines specific guidelines related to the installation and operation of collection systems. Every landowner must follow these guidelines.
Colorado In Colorado, it is legal to harvest rainwater, although some limitations are applied. According to House Bill 16-1005, you cannot exceed 2 barrels (110 gallons together). Additionally, the collected water can only be used on your property, outside the house.
Connecticut It’s completely legal to collect rainwater in the state of Connecticut. No water rights permits are required. Regulation of installation and rainwater distribution is performed in accordance with the 2018 Connecticut State Building Code.
Delaware The state of Delaware has declared that rainwater harvesting is legal. Stormwater management can be practiced without any water permit.
Florida It’s perfectly legal to collect rainwater in Florida. Moreover, you are entitled to funding of your rainwater systems. The installation and maintenance of such systems must comply with the Florida Building Code.
Georgia It’s not illegal to collect rainwater in the state of Georgia. You don’t need a special permit, and the state fully supports all forms of water conservation.
Hawaii Rainwater collection is legally permitted in Hawaii. It’s regulated by the Department of Health and Safety. Local residents are encouraged to collect and conserve water.
Idaho It’s legal to harvest rainwater in Idaho. The only restriction is that your activity should not harm the water right of neighboring properties. Additionally, you should not disrupt the natural flow of rainwater to bodies of water.
Illinois In Illinois, rainwater harvesting is not illegal. If your system has the capacity of more than 5,000 gallons or is used for subsurface irrigation, then a special permit is required.
Indiana The rainwater harvesting is legal in Indiana. The state does not restrict or regulate this practice, and actively encourages it.
Iowa It is not illegal to harvest rainwater in Iowa. Thanks to the Iowa Rain Campaign, both stormwater management and water conservation are widely supported.
Kansas It’s legal to collect rainwater in Kansas. A special permit is needed if you plan to use rainwater for something else other than your private needs.
Kentucky In Kentucky, the law of Public Water of the Commonwealth states that freely flowing water is not public. Therefore, it is legal for the landowner to collect rainwater.
Louisiana Rainwater can be legally harvested in Louisiana. There are certain limitations regarding the use of cisterns in the cities, so check with the local authorities before installing one.
Maine In Maine, rainwater harvesting is not illegal. It’s considered being a low-impact practice that has a very little impact on the environment.
Maryland Rainwater collection is legally permitted in Maryland. There are specific regulations, as far as rainwater systems are concerned. These systems must comply with the Plumbing Code 2018 of Maryland.
Massachusetts Rainwater harvesting is legal in Massachusetts, for both indoor and outdoor uses. All information resources on this subject are constantly posted and updated by the Massachusetts State Government.
Michigan Rainwater harvesting is legally permitted in the state of Michigan. Act 625 of 2012 considers it being a part of water conservation, while the 2015 Michigan Plumbing Code sets the guidelines to proper harvesting.
Minnesota Rainwater collection is legal and actively encouraged in Minnesota. The installation and maintenance of rainwater systems must be performed in accordance with the 2015 Minnesota Plumbing Code.
Mississippi Domestic use of rainwater collection is entirely legal in the state of Mississippi. It can be used for both washing and drinking. Mississippi Department of Health is responsible for deciding whether the water is safe and potable.
Missouri In Missouri, rainwater collection is not illegal. The Landowner Use of Water permits to install systems that can be used to deliver drinkable water.
Montana Rainwater harvesting is legal in Montana. The use of rainwater should only be outdoor and domestic, and also in accordance with the Montana Plumbing Code.
Nebraska In Nebraska, the use of collected rainwater is legal, for both indoors and outside uses. Residential Code 2018 of Nebraska regulates how the rainwater harvesting systems should be managed.
Nevada Rainwater harvesting is legal in Nevada, but only for non-potable use. Nevada Assembly Bill 138 allows the rainwater collection without demanding any special permit.
New Hampshire Non-potable, outdoor use of the rainwater is legal in New Hampshire. Soak Up the Rain New Hampshire Project encourages using barrels while supplying guidelines for correct rainwater harvesting.
New Jersey Rainwater collection is legal in New Jersey. Assembly Bill 2442 has established that rainwater collection should be rewarded.
New Mexico New Mexico legally permits collecting rainwater for any purpose other than drinking. New Mexico State Engineer stated that private residents can install rainwater systems to be used in gardening.
New York Non-potable use of rainwater collection is completely legal in the state of New York. The Plumbing Code 2015 of the New York state has exact regulations how rainwater recycling systems should be installed and treated.
North Carolina While it’s not illegal to collect rainwater in North Carolina, there are a few restrictions. The North Carolina Building Code, among other codes, dictates the exact rules for harvesting and storage. It should be consulted with before installing the appropriate equipment.
North Dakota Outdoor use of harvested rainwater is legal in North Dakota. If the use is commercial, or if it irrigates an area larger than 5 acres, then a water permit must be issued.
Ohio In Ohio, rainwater collection is legal for both drinking and non-drinking purposes. Ohio Administrative Code regulated private recycled water installations.
Oklahoma The use of harvested rainwater is not illegal in the state of Oklahoma. In fact, Oklahoma was the first state to declare state-wide initiative that focuses on conservation of water.
Oregon Rainwater collection is legal in Oregon. However, it is limited to rooftops of approved buildings only. Before you add any rainwater harvesting system to your house, you must contact the local municipality to obtain the permits.
Pennsylvania Non-potable, outdoor use of the rainwater is legal in Pennsylvania. There are several official codes, that stem from the Uniform Plumbing Code, that you must be aware of before installing a rainwater harvesting system.
Rhode Island The state of Rhode Island actively encourages the use of rainwater, making it completely legal. Rhode Island House Bill 7070 grants tax credits to everyone who installs a rainwater harvesting system.
South Carolina There are no legal restrictions in South Carolina regarding rainwater collection. The rainwater can be freely used, except for drinking purpose. Any installation must comply with the 2015 Plumbing Code of South Carolina.
South Dakota In South Dakota, no legal permit is required to harvest rainwater. It must be used for private, non-potable purposes only. Its use also shouldn’t surpass 25,920 gallons per day.
Tennessee Non-potable use of the rainwater is legal in Tennessee. Rainwater collection is a part of green infrastructure and is fully authorized by the local authorities.
Texas Rainwater harvesting is legal and fully supported in the state of Texas. You are, however, required to notify the municipality if you plan to add a rainwater system to your homestead’s design. This is done in accordance with House Bill 3391.
Utah Collecting rainwater is completely legal in Utah, although the person who does the collecting must also be the permanent resident and owner of the land, where the rainwater falls. Storing rainwater is allowed, but you cannot store more than 2,500 gallons.
Vermont Rainwater harvesting is legal in Vermont. No water permit is required, but you must not use rainwater for drinking. Only outside use is permitted.
Virginia Rainwater collection is legal in Virginia. It’s even noticeably encouraged here. Whoever installed a rainwater system to conserve freshwater is rewarded with a tax deduction.
Washington Non-potable use of the rainwater is legal in the state of Washington. The state’s Department of Ecology declared that no special water permit is required in such case.
West Virginia West Virginia allows collecting rainwater on the roof for any purpose other than drinking. If you plan to add rainwater system to your house, you are required to consult with a designer.
Wisconsin You are permitted to collect rainwater in Wisconsin, but you cannot drink it. All rainwater harvesting activity must be done according to Wisconsin Administrative Code Section 382.
Wyoming Collecting rainwater is not illegal in Wyoming, but it must be used for outside purposes and not for drinking. The water rights are decided according to the “doctrine of prior appropriation”, which means that the first person to use the rainwater has the right for it.

Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater in Canada?

The practice of collecting rainwater in Canada is not illegal, and therefore is not punishable by law. Still, all provinces have separate regulations and standards. Everyone must be aware of provincial codes and limits before harvesting rainwater.

As you can see, being familiar with the local laws should be the first step before you start collecting rainwater. Let’s have a detailed look at what certain provinces require.

Province Legality of Rainwater Collection
British Columbia Rainwater collection is legal in British Columbia, due to the law of capture. This means that there is no provincial ownership over the falling rainwater, and whoever captures it – can use it. No restrictions are applied.
Ontario It’s legal to collect rainwater in Ontario, as long as you follow the Ontario Guidelines for Residential Rainwater Harvesting Systems. The guidelines describe precisely how the rainwater should be captured, conveyed, used, and stored. They also describe how to handle rainwater in below-zero freezing temperatures.
Alberta While rainwater harvesting is permitted in Alberta, any rainwater user must read a special handbook. The handbook contains technical guidelines that provide better perception of how rainwater collection must be done.

Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater in the UK?

According to UK’s Department for Environment, it is not illegal to collect rainwater in the UK. Water harvesting is encouraged by multiple councils and companies. Communities may collect rainwater, as long as they follow safety and health codes.

While Department for Environment clarifies the legal status of rainwater collection, there are still specific rules and regulations that one should be aware of. I list them in the following table.

Regulation Detailed Information
Rainwater Harvesting Systems (BS 8515:2009) There are the complete guidelines for handling and supplying rainwater that ensure high standards of its quality. The guidelines establish a clear code that anyone who collects rainwater must follow.
Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) These regulations mostly pertain to the connections between rainwater supplies and regular water pipelines. The WRAS states that an air gap must be present between the two systems in order to prevent contamination.
Pipe Marking Harvested rainwater needs to be marked as non-drinkable. Therefore, any pipes with rainwater, as well as valves and attached appliances, should be labelled as non-drinkable, too.
Planning Permission Since rainwater harvesting is considered being a part of the recycling system, there are no specific planning permission required. However, it would be wise to contact a planning office before installing a rainwater tank, just to be sure.

Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater in Australia?

It is perfectly legal to collect rainwater in Australia. The country actively encourages this practice. 26% of Australian houses use a rainwater tank. Moreover, 63% of water consumption in rural areas comes from collected rainwater.

There are some differences between parts of Australia regarding the practice of rainwater harvesting. I summarize them in the following table.

State or Territory Legality of Rainwater Collection
Queensland Rainwater collection is supported by the local government, and you can get a substantial rebate when you buy rainwater storage units.
South Australia Rainwater harvesting is actually a must in South Australia. New homesteads are built with a connected tank for rainwater.
Sydney and New South Wales In these regions, Building and Sustainability Index requires 40% reduction of water usage. As a result, many buildings have a rainwater tank, which is used for flushing, laundry, gardening, car washing, and so on.
Gold Coast Here, having a large rainwater tank is mandatory, for both private and business buildings. The rainwater pipes are usually connected to some of the washing machines and outside faucets.
Victoria All new buildings and apartments are required to prove their water usage efficiency. To reach a 5-stars rating of water usage, many of them install rainwater tanks which is used for minor tasks, such as flushing.

Why Is Rainwater Harvesting Encouraged by Multiple States and Countries?

As you could undoubtedly see from the information above, rainwater harvesting is frequently legal. More than that, it’s in fact encouraged by many countries, as well as most states in the USA. Why is that?

Some of the reasons were mentioned earlier, here are all of them.

  • Rainwater harvesting greatly promotes water conservation.
  • People who practice rainwater harvesting can save a lot of expenses in the long run.
  • Collecting rainwater, especially during heavy storms, prevents excessive drainage and other damages to your property’s soil.
  • Rainwater systems are relatively inexpensive. Also, they can be easily expanded, changed, or even adapted to a new house if you plan to move.
  • Rainwater is relatively clean (should be filtered before drinking) as well as free. It does not contain chlorine, which is why it’s great for farming and gardening.

In order to enjoy free, clean water while staying within local restrictions, you need a good rainwater collecting barrel. Personally, I use RTS Home Accents 50-Gallon ECO Rain Water Collection Barrel from Amazon. It’s ecofriendly, because it’s made from recycled plastic. The barrel is sturdy and durable, and has a flat back that fits against a wall and helps collecting even more rainwater. It even comes with a screen that keeps bugs and debris away from the water. See what other people are saying about it.


Further Reading

There is more to learn on the subject of rainwater harvesting. If you wish to be more prepared, please read my guide on how to harvest rainwater.

Rainwater harvesting is a big part of off-the-grid living. It makes your homestead sustainable and independent from the country’s pipelines. Living off the grid is a large, yet exciting subject. I recommend you read my complete guide on off-the-grid living before starting this lifechanging adventure.

Godspeed, my friends!

Alex Rejba

Alex is a seasoned survivalist, with a passion to all things related to prepping, hiking and living off the grid.

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