Rainwater Collection Laws (Legalities explained)

“Is it legal to collect rainwater?”

You may know a fair bit about rainwater collection, but are you familiar with the legalities surrounding its harvesting?

It can be very frustrating and time-consuming to search through the laws and regulations of each state. This is especially true when you’re searching for rainwater regulations that are so specific.

Luckily, we’ve rolled our sleeves up and done the dirty work so that you don’t have to!

This article simplifies the laws and regulations and supplies resources relating to rainwater collection systems.

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Is It Illegal To Collect Rainwater?

Yes, you can legally collect rainwater; no federal laws prohibit rainwater collection. The Federal Energy Management Program and the National Agricultural Law Center clarify this.

However, each state has its own rainwater harvesting regulations.

Some states limit the amount of water you can collect, while others offer incentives. That said, none of them prohibits the collection of rainwater.

The following map indicates the level of rules and regulations in place per state:

This map above shows the different levels of rules in the U.S — is it legal to collect rainwater?
(This map above shows the different levels of rules in the U.S.)
RegulationsNumber
No Regulations1
Limited Regulations2
State Regulations3
State Regulations & Incentives4
The table acts as a key for the above map.

What Are The Laws Governing Rainwater Collection?

Most laws stipulate how much rainwater you can collect and who can manage it. Additionally, some states highlight if you’re allowed to drink the rainwater or not.

We’ve broken down the different laws and regulations into four levels to make things easier.

  • No Regulations: after searching through governmental sites, we’ve not found any information relating to rainwater collection.
  • Limited Regulations: in this category it’s legal to collect rainwater but the regulations are limited. This just means that there are few rules you need to follow.
  • State Regulations: there are some regulations that the state has put in place. We’ve outlined these regulations for you.
  • State Regulations & Incentives: not only are there regulations set out, but the state also offers incentives.

No Regulations

This image displays all level 1 states. There are no regulations for rainwater collection in these states — is it legal to collect rainwater?
This image displays all level 1 states. There are no regulations for rainwater collection in these states.

We couldn’t find any laws or regulations for the following states. However, collecting rainwater is still legal; it’s just not regulated.

StateAdditional Resources
AlabamaRainwater Harvesting in Alabama
AlaskaNone Found
ConnecticutConnecticut Stormwater Quality Manual
DelawareUniversity of Delaware
FloridaFlorida Water Star
HawaiiYou can find resources here and here.
IndianaNone Found
IowaIowa Stormwater
KansasNone Found
KentuckyNone Found
LouisianaNone Found
MaineNone Found
MarylandMaryland Green Registry
MassachusettsBill H.2632
MichiganNone Found
MississippiMississippi State University
MissouriYou can find resources here and here.
MontanaMontant.gov
NebraskaDrought Resources
New HampshireNone Found
New JerseyNone Found
New YorkRainwater Harvesting Guide
North DakotaNone Found
PennsylvaniaPennState Rainwater Cisterns
Rhode IslandUniversity of Rhode Island
South CarolinaNone Found
South DakotaNone Found
TennesseePermanent Rainwater – Rainwater Harvesting
West VirginiaWest Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
WisconsinNone Found
WyomingNone Found
The table provides resources for each state.

Limited Regulations

Both Nevada and Colorado have limited regulations on rainwater collection.

Nevada

Residents in Nevada can collect rainwater from their homes, but only for non-potable domestic use. They can also use water as a guzzler for wildlife.

To find out more about these regulations, you can refer to NRS 533.027 – Applicability of chapter to de minimus collection of precipitation.

Colorado

Colorado only allows homes with four persons or less to collect rainwater.

The tanks can only contain a maximum of110 gallons, and the water can only be used for irrigation.

However, if your property has a well, you’re allowed to collect as much rainwater as you like. The only catch is that the rainwater can only be collected off your roof and used to recharge the well.

Thus, you’re allowed to use the rainwater for indoor and outdoor use through your well system. Refer to law HB16-1005.


State Regulations

The above states have clear rainwater collection regulations.
These states have clear rainwater collection regulations.

The following states have clear regulations on rainwater collection:

  • Oregon: the collection of rainwater is regulated through the Oregon Plumbing Speciality Code. According to chapter 16, it’s legal to collect rainwater for your home as long as the system is placed outside. Pay careful attention to whether you need a permit or not.
  • Arkansas: the state allows the collection of rainwater as long as it meets three requirements; the system needs to be designed by a professional, have the correct safeguards and adhere to the plumbing code. Refer to the AR Code § 17-38-201 (2017), part G for more information.
  • Illinois: in 2012 the state of Illinois amended the plumbing license Law to include rainwater harvesting. You can refer to this bill status for a synopsis of the amendment.
  • Ohio: the regulations are put in place by the Department of Health and the EPA. Regulations include the amount of water you can collect and the materials you can use. You can refer to Ohio’s EPA homepage and the EPA.

State Regulations And Incentives

These states have laws but also offer incentives — is it legal to collect rainwater?
These states have laws but also offer incentives.

The following states have regulations and possible incentives for collecting rainwater:

Arizona

Rainwater harvesting is encouraged and regulated through the Department of Water Resources.

House Bill 2830 lays out the regulations for the use of rainwater in residential settings. However, it refers to rainwater use in landscapes — we couldn’t find any rules for indoor use.

Arizona doesn’t offer state-wide incentives. However, county and city incentives are available.

Refer to this manual for more information on rainwater harvesting for landscape use.

California

Rainwater collection is legal in California; it’s regulated through the Division of Water Rights.

There are rules that your system needs to adhere to:

  • You don’t need a water permit as long as your system is installed by a qualified landscaper — this is only applicable for outdoor water usage.
  • You may need a water rights permit to use rainwater indoors as well as other professionals.

Here are the regulations: Rainwater Capture Act of 2012 [10570 – 10574]

There are no state-wide incentives, but some local county incentives are in place. For example, Santa Monica offers a rebate of $2,000 for two cisterns greater than 500 gallons. In addition, San Diego provides a rain barrel rebate of 50c per gallon.


Georgia

The Department of Natural Resources closely monitors rainwater usage in Georgia.

You should always check with your county on any laws and regulations regarding rainwater collection. You’ll also have to check if you need a permit or not.

You can find all the regulations in Georgia’s plumbing code.

  • The code states that you can only use rainwater for outdoor use.
  • If you’d like an advanced system, you’d have to install the elements outlined in the code.

Taxpayers can receive up to 25% back on tax when purchasing and installing a rainwater collection system. To obtain the credit, you should contact the Department of Natural Resources.

Refer to this document for more tax information.

Minnesota

The state of Minnesota has laid out multiple regulations for the use of rainwater and system maintenance. You can find these regulations in Chapter 4714 of the Plumbing Code.

In summary, the regulations are:

  • Designs for rainwater systems need to be approved by a qualified qualified Minnesota engineer.
  • Rainwater systems need to be for non-potable water uses such as toilet cisterns, gardening or washing machines.
  • Rainwater systems need to be maintained and checked according to this table.

However, it’s unclear whether you need a permit or not for rainwater systems.

Refer to this guide for more information.

North Carolina

Rainwater collection is allowed through the plumbing code of North Carolina and regulated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Some of the regulations include:

  • Rainwater can only be used for non-potable uses.
  • All rainwater supply pipes should be purple.
  • Rainwater cisterns need to be market with signs stating that the water is non-potable.

For more information, you can refer to this guide for N.C. homeowners.


New Mexico

New Mexico encourages the preservation of water as well as rain collection systems. The Office of the State Engineer (O.S.E.) regulates these laws.

The following rules apply:

  • You may collect rainwater as long as it’s used on site.
  • The rainwater cannot be used for any purposes other than outdoor use or domestic indoor use.
  • The system cannot impact the amount of stormwater runoff from the site.

Check with your local O.S.E. to find out if you need a permit and local incentives.

You can find the O.S.E.’s policy here.

Texas

Texas is one of the most receptive states to rainwater collection. Not only is it legal and no permit is required, but there are tons of incentives.

  • Homes with approved rainwater systems can be exempted of part or all of their county property tax. (Texas Tax Code §11.32)
  • There is no tax on rain collection related products such as rain barrels. (Texas Tax Code 151.355)
  • Homeowner Associations are prevented from banning rainwater collection systems. (Texas Property Code 202.007)

Utah

The Water Rights Division lays out the regulations for Utah. Here are the following regulations that are currently in effect:

  • The rainwater collected should be used on the same land it was collected on.
  • You are limited to 2,500 gallons of storage volume.

Remember: you may need to register your rainwater harvesting system. For example, if your system has two containers or one container greater than 100 gallons, you’ll have to register it. Thankfully, registration is free.

You can refer to this guide for more information.

Virginia

State legislation sets the rules and regulations in Virginia’s plumbing code. You can find the regulations in section 1303.

Regulations include:

  • Rainwater can only be used for outdoor and non-potable uses. This is to reduce the demand on fresh water.
  • You can only collect rainwater from your roof.
  • The first 4″ of rainfall needs to be diverted using a first-flush diverter.
Please refer to the Plumbing Code for a complete list of rules.

District of Columbia

The rainwater regulations are under stormwater in the District of Columbia plumbing code.

Some of the regulations include:

  • Rainwater collection systems for potable use need to use an approved air gap fitting.
  • Storage tanks require relavent markings such as ‘non-potable water‘.
  • You need to collect potable rainwater from your roof and water for outdoor use from any surface. You need to keep the two seperated.

Washington

Rainwater collection is allowed in Washington; however, there are some conditions.

You do not need a permit to collect rainwater as long as it:

  • The rainwater must be collected on the property that it’s collected on.
  • That the system is attached to a building that has another purpose other than to collect rainwater.

If you plan on using rainwater as drinking water, you’ll need to check if your county allows it.

You can find additional resources here and here.

Final Thoughts

In summary, it is legal to collect rainwater in the U.S.A. However, numerous regulations dictate how you collect and use this water.

In addition, each state has its own rules, which you can generally find attached to their respective plumbing code. Certain states even offer tax back or rebates as incentives, saving you even more money.

If you’re ever unsure about the rules and regulations in your area, it’s best to check with your county.

We hope you found this article informative; please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below!

Dylan Crosbie

Dylan Crosbie

Dylan is a qualified Architectural Technician who's combined his passion for sustainable architecture with journalism. He believes that it's possible for everyone to work towards a sustainable future, even if it’s one small step at a time. This interest has led him to the Climatebiz team where he continues to strive for a greener future for all.

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