Rainwater Harvesting is it Illegal? (Answered)

In this article, we’ll answer the question, “Is it illegal to collect rainwater?”

But we’ll also go much deeper than just explaining if rainwater harvesting is illegal. 

Below you’ll learn about Rainwater Harvesting Laws for each state and how you can get a deeper understanding of if you can collect rainwater legally where you live. 

Is it Illegal to collect rainwater?

No, rainwater harvesting is not illegal. 

One urban myth that seems to persist is that rainwater harvesting (RWH) is illegal when that is absolutely not the case. 

First of all, to say it is illegal implies a federal ban, which does not exist.  Water supply is regulated by individual States. 

Yet there is no State that has an outright prohibition. 

In fact, the majority of States are completely silent on the matter, which means individuals are free to do as they please.  

Meanwhile, of the 13 States that do have laws, none of them prohibit the practice, only regulate it. 

Those states are Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, California, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, and Nevada.

Some worry that regulation means severe restrictions. But that is not the case either. 

For some states, it can mean the reverse. In other words, the State is promoting the practice.  Texas, for example, offers a sales tax exemption on the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment. 

Meanwhile, Oklahoma recently passed the “Water for 2060 Act” which initiates grants for information campaigns on capturing and using harvested rainwater. 

Even in Colorado, where RWH actually was illegal until 2009,  residential property owners are now allowed to collect rainwater.

Colorado recently authorized 10 pilot projects where captured precipitation was used in new real estate developments for non-potable uses. 

Much of the blame for the persistent myth that rainwater harvesting is illegal comes from media overexposure.  For example, headlines were made in August of 2012 when an Oregon man was jailed for having three private reservoirs without a permit.

But does the requiring of a permit make something illegal?  As long as the issuing of permits is actually occurring and does not appear to be arbitrary, I would call that a bureaucracy rather than a prohibition. 

Ironically, Oregon is fairly progressive on the residential RWH front. Oregon Building Codes allow for the creation of both potable and non-potable RWH systems.  Portland, Oregon, meanwhile, is a hotbed of rain barrel activity. 

Will Rainwater Harvesting Become Illegal?

No, not as it looks now, so you can feel calm if you’re an RHW geek like us! 

Because rainwater harvesting isn’t going away. More and more states are open to it; some even encourage the people to harvest water for their own.  

Some states even harvest rainwater by themselves and use it on public and government buildings. Which is amazing.

A good step for the future of rain harvesting.  

States where rainwater harvesting has some restrictions

Below you’ll learn about the states with some kind of restrictions or laws about rainwater harvesting. 

So if you’re wondering about rainwater harvesting in your state and if it’s legal? Then this list is perfect for you! 

Alaska

In Alaska, the state government encourages everyone to harvest rainwater, which is also considered a primary water source. However, if you want to harvest groundwater, you need water rights 

You can submit an application for water rights here and get more info about water rights, costs, etc here

Arkansas

In Arkansas, the state government allows rainwater harvesting, but only if it’s used for non-potable purposes. 

The rainwater collection system must also be designed by a licensed professional engineer who complies with the Arkansas Plumbing Code

You can click here if you want more information about rain harvesting in Arkansas

California

According to Water Code section 10574, you don’t need any water rights to collect rainwater coming from your roof.

However, if you’re collecting rainwater for landscaping, you must have a license

The same goes if you use the water for pools, fountains, and ponds.

Colorado

Colorado is one of the most regulated states. You can harvest rainwater but only for non-potable purposes. Like irrigation and gardening. 

The rainwater can only be used on the property where it was harvested. 

Each home is allowed up to 110 gallons of rain barrel storage.

So if you want to harvest rainwater in Colorado, make sure you’re following the rules. 

If you want to deeper into rain harvesting in Colorado, read this paper from Colorado State University

Illinois

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Illinois, but two statutes apply. 

The first one is called House Bill 911, requiring homeowners’ associations to state if rainwater harvesting is allowed. If it is, they must set the rainwater collection system’s location, design, and architectural requirements. 

The second one is called the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act. It encourages rainwater harvesting if you’re using efficient and sustainable methods. 

Kansas

In Kansas, you need water rights to do so (just like in Alaska). 

The Kansas Water Appropriation Act protects the people’s rights to harvest rainwater. If you don’t have any water rights, it’s illegal to collect rainwater. 

But some water is allowed to collect, as long it’s for domestic use. 

This means that people can harvest rainwater for their household, livestock, and up to two acres of land. 

If you got more questions, contact the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Louisiana 

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Louisiana, but you must use a covered rain barrel when collecting water; keeping this barrel clean is also important. 

In Louisiana, it’s forbidden to sell polluted water, including ice. 

Nevada

The state government of Nevada allows its people to harvest rainwater for non-potable domestic use, but it wasn’t always allowed. Before 2017 it was illegal to collect rainwater. 

But that has changed, thanks to NB74, which allows rainwater harvesting, but some restrictions are still in place. 

For example, Remote guzzlers with a capacity of 20,00 gallons are allowed to keep water for wildlife, as long as the area isn’t bigger than one acre. However, the piping system can’t be longer than 1/4 of a mile.

As long as provisions apply, rainwater can be collected without a water right – Assembly Bill 138

North Carolina 

Rain harvesting is legal in North Carolina, but some regulations must be followed. 

Before you start to collect rainwater, you must consult the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 

They can give you technical assistance and look over your system’s efficiency. (A perfect oppurtunity to maximize your collection system!)

In 2009 North Carolina passed a law called State Law 243, which means that all rainwater collection systems need to get an inspection before use. 

It’s also important that:

  • Your system can only collect water coming from the roof of a building. 
  • All your tanks must be blue or green. 
  • The tanks must have an authorized disinfected filter strainer 

Later, the law Appendix C1 was added with new requirements for all the rainwater collection systems. These requirements make the water safer and protect public health since it makes the water easily identified as non-potable. 

Ohio 

It’s legal to collect rainwater in Ohio, even for potable use. 

But if you plan to provide drinking water to 25 people or fewer, you must have your system regulated by the Ohio Department of Health.

Oregon

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Oregon, but if you use public water, you’ll need a water permit right, unless the public can access your rainwater collection system.

Oregon has released a smart guide regarding rainwater harvesting in Oregon.

Texas

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Texas, with a few regulations about harvesting rainwater for potable and non-potable purposes. 

If you plan to connect a rainwater collection system to a public water supply system, you must provide a written notice to the owner or the municipality. The owner or the municipality can’t be held responsible if the water has any health effects. 

The rules concerning commercial, residential, and industrial facilities are different. 

A municipality cannot prevent rainwater harvesting in a public facility. The Texas Water Development Board must train municipality and county staff.

Utah

Utah is the most strict state if you want to harvest rainwater. 

If you own or lease land, you can harvest rainwater

But Senate Bill 32 states that every person who plans more than 2,500 gallons of water must register with the Division of Water Resources

This isn’t needed if you only use one container with a max of 100 gallons capacity. 

Washington 

It’s legal to collect rainwater in Washington

But there’s a few regulations, but they can vary depending on your county. In some counties, it’s not allowed to collect rainwater for drinking. So before you start to collect rainwater, make sure to check with your county regarding the rules. 

Rainwater Harvesting Regulations Map

You can check the Rainwater Harvesting Regulations Map if you want more info. 

Legal status for all states overview

EncouragedLegalLegal
(with restrictions)
ConnecticutAlabamaAlaska
DelawareArizonaArkansas
FloridaIowaCalifornia
HawaiiKentuckyColorado
IndianaMaineIllinois
MarylandMississippiKansas
MassachusettsNew JerseyLouisiana
MichiganOklahomaNevada
MinnesotaSouth DakotaNorth Carolina
MissouriTennesseeOhio
MontanaVermontOregon
NebraskaWest Virginia WisconsinTexas
New HampshireWyomingUtah
New MexicoWashington
New York
North Dakota
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Virginia
Chart over legal status for harvesting rainwater

Is Rainwater Harvesting Illegal Summary 

I hope you enjoyed this article if rainwater harvesting is illegal. 

As you discovered some many different laws and histories apply to each state. Some are more open to it, while others have strict restrictions. 

However, rainwater harvesting is legal in all states. So if you’re interested in starting collecting your own water. Start today!