Update; September 16, 2016: We have been getting some posts documenting the harassment of citizens by local authorities in regards to collecting rain water. I’ve checked these out to the best of my ability, and found most of them to be somewhat accurate. On this blog I do not intend to focus on taking a political stance on the legality or morality of rain water harvesting. I do want to deal with truth and factual information regarding rain water harvesting. That said, there is a dangerous trend surfacing, not in “big” government, but in local authorities. Home owner’s associations, local counties, and cities can often times target citizens for a variety of marginally legal reasons, usually resulting from a complaint registered by a neighbor, or the actions of an over-zealous “inspector”. Keep a watchful eye on all government, always. Follow the money trail to corruption. Do not react out of ignorance resulting in misplaced anger. Respond and stand firm with truth and factual evidence.
Update; June 1, 2015: Some new information on Nevada.
Update; April 10, 2015:
Its been over a year since the last post on this topic. Sadly, lots of the links we put here to state gov’t webpages on rain water harvesting have been moved, or perhaps simply removed. This will mean another long process of research to update each state’s information. Consider those states whose links have not changed to be the most reliable. When I get time, I will try to update each state’s info. In places like California where there is a major drought and water is now a huge issue; expect regulations to change.
As of March 22, 2014; after hours of ongoing research for the past year, I have checked all 50 state government websites and found that, with the exception of Colorado and Nevada, there is currently no state government law in the U.S. that considers rainwater harvesting by individuals (home owners) in a direct manor and bluntly, “against the law” for anyone and everyone and furthermore, “government” is not becoming “more restrictive with rain water harvesting”– yet; but it may happen in the future. Keep a watchful eye on government – always! The information in this post is based on my interpretation. I’ve included links to the info used for each state below. (Corrections accepted with a link to the source.) Thanks to Andre for corrections regarding Ohio, and Georgia, September 21, 2014.
District of Columbia
Several notes of caution: in some cases there may be good reasons for prohibiting rain water harvesting by individuals. This may not have anything to do with “government ownership of rain”, and everything to do with public safety. If local authorities prohibit rain barrels, there may be a darn good reason. Check with local health districts regarding this issue before you set up rain barrels. You have been advised. Massachusetts and Kansas have website pages regarding rain barrels that change very quickly and their website information regarding rain water harvesting has a tendency to disappear. Of the 50 state government websites, and associated sites I have already personally looked at (see the links above), and based on what I have read at these sites; it is obvious that in each case, as time moves on rain water harvesting is being encouraged. After reviewing other’s research (shown below at the bottom of this page); the same applies. Also note that there are over 3000 counties in the U.S.; and over 18,000 cities. It is entirely possible that rain water harvesting may be subject to additional laws not found on the state government websites. Also note that in Texas, the right to harvest rain water is actually protected by law. Also note that: it is my interpretation that California, Colorado, and Ohio have regulations that make it very difficult for the average homeowner to set up a rainwater harvesting system; even though it is not “blatantly against the law for anyone and / or everyone”.
Update March 22, 2014 regarding Maryland: I found nothing on theMaryland government website specifically stating that setting up rain barrels or rain water harvesting by individual homeowners is against the law. Rain barrels and rain water harvesting are encouraged in Maryland. See these links: https://www.maryland.gov/pages/agency_directory.aspx?view=state%20agencies http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/habitat/wildacres/warainbarrels.asp http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/sites/stormwatermanagement/cleanwateractfees/bmp/rainbarrels/pages/default.aspx http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dep/water/rain-barrels.html http://mde.maryland.gov/programs/Water/WaterConservation/WaterConservationFactsheet/Pages/Programs/WaterPrograms/Water_Conservation/Water_Factsheet/index.aspx
Update March 22, 2014 regarding North Carolina: I found nothing on the North Carolina government website specifically stating that setting up rain barrels or rain water harvesting by individual homeowners is against the law. Rain barrels and rain water harvesting are actually encouraged in North Carolina. see these links: http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=dcc53c0f-ff4b-4ece-872c-c1ff27dc7d7a&groupId=38364 http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_153A/GS_153A-145.html http://www.ncgov.com/environment/water.aspx http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=b1fb84b4-b183-41a2-a211-113e287be2f9&groupId=38364 http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=84485c32-e3bc-413a-a0ae-313c963c037f&groupId=38322
Update March 21, 2014 regarding North Dakota: I found nothing on the North Dakota government website specifically stating that setting up rain barrels or rain water harvesting by individual home owners is against the law. I did find several sites recommending setting up rain barrels. There are very strict laws regarding all other water sources. Rain barrels are recommended and explained here this is a pdf, and rain barrels are described and recommended on the last page (28). The North Dakota plumbing code information may be useful.
Update March 18, 2014 regarding Mississippi: I found nothing on the Mississippi state government website specifically stating that setting up rain barrels or rain water harvesting is against state law. I did find that the laws and regulations regarding water are extremely complex in Mississippi, as they are in every state government website I have checked so far. (47 as of today March 18, 2014). The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources recommends setting up rain barrels in this document and shows how to set them up. “MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF MARINE RESOURCES 1141 Bayview Avenue, Biloxi, Mississippi 39530 Contact: Susan Perkins Phone: 228‐523‐4124 News Release 13‐7‐SLP January 31, 2013 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Build a Rain Barrel Workshop to Be Held Feb. 16 at Grand Bay NERR” Its highly unlikely that the state government would recommend this if it was illegal to set up rain barrels. From the document titled: “Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality Regulation LW-2 SURFACE WATER AND GROUNDWATER USE AND PROTECTION Adopted by the Commission on Environmental Quality June 24, 2004 Amended by the Commission on Environmental Quality January 26, 2006 Amended by the Commission on Environmental Quality December 10, 2009” I found the following information: There are strict regulations on surface water, and ground water usage starting on page 8 at the preceding link. On page 7 of this same document “waters of the state” is/are defined as such: “OO. Waters of the state — all waters within the jurisdiction of this state, including all streams, lakes, ponds, impounding reservoirs, marshes, watercourses, waterways, wells, springs, and all other bodies or accumulations of water, surface and underground, natural or artificial, situated wholly or partly within or bordering the state; except lakes, ponds or other surface waters which are wholly landlocked and privately owned, and which are not regulated as waters of the United States under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.” Farther down in this same document on page 17: “III. Surface Water Diversions — All surface water diversions must meet the permitting requirements set forth in Section II., unless specifically exempted below. A. Exemptions – Surface water diversions meeting the following conditions shall not be subject to the permitting requirements of this chapter: 1. Diversions when the water is to be used for domestic single-residence purposes. 2. Diversions from an existing impoundment not located on a continuous, free flowing watercourse. However, for proposed surface water impoundments, the person intending to acquire the right to store or use water from a reservoir formed by a dam shall obtain a permit for storage or use of water from the impoundment as required by Miss. Code Ann. Section 51-3-39 paragraph (1)(c), prior to commencement of construction of the dam.” This document published by The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Recommends setting up rain barrels on page 36.
Update March 10, 2014 regarding Louisiana: I found nothing at the Louisiana state government web site specifically stating that setting up rain barrels or rain water harvesting is against the law. Rain barrels and rain water harvesting are recommended by: The Louisiana department of natural resources through a document put out by Maryland. Creekside Jr. High Pearl River, La. and approved of by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in the 2014 ELP Award Descriptions (2nd entry first page “Rain barrel program”). The City of Lafayette, Louisiana Collecting rain is recommended by the Louisiana Department of Natural resources on the second line from the bottom: “Direct downspouts, gutters and air conditioner drips toward shrubbery or trees, and collect rainwater in a large bucket for other outside uses.” This company sells rain water storage tanks is Louisiana. This website recommends rain barrels in Louisiana They’ve been in business since 1997 in the southeast U.S. .
Update March 10, 2014 regarding Virginia: The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation recommends and explains how to set up rain barrels. Farifax county in Virginia has a rain barrel info site. The City of Arlington Virginia has a rain barrel info site. It is highly unlikely that rain water harvesting is against state law in Virginia.
Update February 27, 2014 regarding Connecticut: back to top The state of Connecticut encourages rain water harvesting by homeowners. Rain barrel setups are encouraged. There are numerous regulations. (the pdf accessed by clicking the first link can be found at the bottom of the page at “numerous regulations”. ) Its highly unlikely that rain barrels or rain water harvesting by homeowners is against the law in Connecticut; however if you plan to set up a 5 million gallon lake in your back yard, you will probably run into some legal issues.
Update February 27, 2014 regarding Oklahoma: back to top The state government of Oklahoma encourages rain water harvesting. So does Oklahoma City I found nothing at the Oklahoma government website indicating that rain water harvesting is against the law. There are lots of rules and regulations regarding water. In Oklahoma, and in any other state, if a person hogs millions of gallons of water they will be in trouble. A few thousand gallons of water stored in rain barrels, or a small cistern is not likely to get anyone in trouble. Keep in mind, however, that there may very well be local regulations (sometimes called “covenants”) forbidding rain barrels or rain water harvesting in certain residential communities.
Update February 24, 2014 regarding Vermont: back to top The state government website has information encouraging rain water harvesting and cisterns. From this, we can logically conclude that it is not against Vermont state law for individual homeowners to harvest rain water. Like all state governments, Vermont has rules, regulations and laws regarding water.
Update February 23, 2014 regarding Rhode Island: back to top Rain water harvesting is encouraged in Rhode Island I found nothing on the Rhode Island government website saying it is against the law for individual homeowners to harvest rain water. Rain barrels are sold in Rhode Island: http://www.middletownri.com/government/11/64/Rain-Barrels-and-Compost-Bins http://www.onaquidneck.com/green.htm http://www.uri.edu/ce/healthylandscapes/rainbsources.html http://www.networkedneighbors.org/download/lid_facts_rainbarrels.pdf
Update February 21, 2014 regarding Arizona: back to top Rain water harvesting is encouraged in Arizona: http://www.pagnet.org/Programs/EnvironmentalPlanning/Water/RainwaterHarvesting/RainwaterHarvestingMapsandResources/tabid/914/Default.aspx https://wrrc.arizona.edu/DWHI/water-harvesting-resources%20 http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oeh/fses/school-garden/documents/harvesting-rainwater-sop-sample.pdf http://flagstaff.az.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/15887 http://pinalcountyaz.gov/Departments/PublicWorks/MaterialRecoveryCenter/Documents/Save%20Water%20with%20a%20Rain%20Barrel.pdf I found nothing specifically prohibiting rain water harvesting by individual homeowners in Arizona
Update February 21, 2014 regarding Minnesota:
Here is a link to some of the Minnesota DNR’s water info:
“A water appropriation permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources (DNR) is needed to appropriate or use waters of the state for any use
that exceeds 10,000 gallons in any one day or 1,000,000 gallons in a year except
for domestic use serving less than 25 persons. [See Minnesota Statutes, Section
103A.201 and Section 103G.271, subd. 1, and Minnesota Rules, Part 6115.0600.]”
I found nothing in the water use permit section of the Minnesota government website requiring a permit for rain water harvesting by individual home owners. As long as you do not appropriate (withdraw) more that 10,000 gallons per day, or 1,000,000 gallons per year you do not need a permit. I found nothing indicating that it is against the law for homeowers to harvest rainwater, or set up rain barrels. http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/appropriations/flowmeter.pdf (measuring flow) http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/publications/waters/Pardon_Me_Myth.pdf (water ownership in Minnesota)
Update February 20, 2014 regarding Hawai’i (Hawaii): back to top In Hawai’i, rain water harvesting is unregulated and encouraged; and lots of information is available regarding how to set up a system. It’s not against the law. This state has the attitude that makes the most sense of any I have checked. I found the answer in their government website with one (1) click of the mouse after looking at Google search results. Too bad the other 49 states can’t get a clue!!!!
Update February 19, 2014 regarding New Mexico: back to top Rain water harvesting is not against state law in New Mexico, it is encouraged: http://www.ose.state.nm.us/water-info/conservation/pdf-manuals/Roof-Reliant-Landscaping/RRL-CoverContentsIntro.pdf There are, however very strict laws regarding ground water, and surface water. Water rights are a “first in time first in right” situation. There are regulations about the use of harvested roof water, but it is not against the law do do so. The fact that harvesting rain water from roof tops does not subtract any substantial water available to those with first in time rights has been established and is recognized in New Mexico. It is now well known that roof water harvesting actually supplies more recharge water by capturing it and allowing it to flow back underground before it evaporates in the heat of the desert air.
Update February 19, 2014 regarding New York: back to top Rain water harvesting is not against state law in New York, it is encouraged: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/stormwater/rainbarrel.shtml http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/67714.html http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/giwebstearn.pdf (see page 13) http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/water_pdf/csomod2012.pdf (see page 3) http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/59902.html “A DEC permit is required for any type of water withdrawal system having the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons per day [gpd] or more of surface or groundwater.” No average homeowner will ever need more that 100,000 gallons of water in one day.
Update, February 18, 2014 regarding New Hampshire: back to top Setting up rain barrels is encourged by the New Hampshire state governement in this pdf. It is highly unlikeley that the state government would encourage rain water harvesting if it were against state law. See the next two links for more info: http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/stormwater/ http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/stormwater/stormwater-mgmt-homeowners.htm
Update, February 3, 2014 regarding Texas and Alaska: back to top Rain water harvesting is encouraged by the state government in Texas, in fact; Texas has a state law that clearly protects the right to harvest rain water it is called : H.B. No. 645 I found nothing on the Alaska government website saying that rain water harvesting is against the law. The conditions in Alaska are unique and there are very different circumstances as compared to other places in the world. My interpretation here is that its not against the law in Texas, or Alaska to collect rain water.
Update, September 21, 2014 regarding Ohio: back to top Thanks to Andre for this additional information about Ohio: http://www.odh.ohio.gov/en/
Update January 31, 2014 regarding Delaware, Montana, Pennsylvania and California: back to top Delaware Delaware: rain barrels are sponsored, recommended and advised by the state government. It’s likely not against the law to collect rain water in Delaware.
Pennsylvania: rain barrels are encouraged by public officials. This blogger tells of rain barrel installation in Philadelphia. This rain barrel project was funded by the Pennsylvania government. It’s likely that its not against the law to collect rain water in Pennsylvania.
More rainwater harvesting in Pennsylvania info here . This link was supplied by Andrew Scott. Thank you Andrew!
Montana:back to top I found nothing stating that harvesting rain water by individual homeowners is against the law in Montana. There are a hundreds of regulations on all other water, however. There are people who install rain barrels in Montana. I doubt that its against the law. Rain barrels are recommended by a “grant funded” organization in Montana.
California: This state has more regulations than I could read in a month, however in 2012 the California state legislature made it legal for individual home owners to capture rain water :
|“Assembly Bill No. 1750|
An act to amend Section 7027.5 of the Business and Professions Code, and to add Part 2.4 (commencing with Section 10570) to Division 6 of the Water Code, relating to water.[ Approved by Governor September 25, 2012. Filed with Secretary of State September 25, 2012. ]LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST” Rain barrels and capturing rain water is encourged in California: A copy of the new law is here The city of Burbank encourages rain water harvesting San Diego county encourages rain water harvesting Note that cities may have additional regulations The city of Oakland encourages rain water harvesting Here is a link to some of their regulations on water rights and permit requirements. They do not mention rain, just surface water. My interpretation is that its not against the law in these above states to set up rain barrels. Be most careful about checking the laws in California. back to top
Update January 30, 2014 regarding Iowa: back to top After 2 and a half hours at the Iowa state government website, I found nothing saying that rain barrels, or rainwater harvesting by individual homeowners is against the law. I did find a page in the Iowa department of natural resources section listing regulations on water allocation regarding surface water and “all waters”. The html title of this page is “Water Allocation & Use” At the top if this page as it is displayed by the browser the “title” is Water Allocation and Use Program Michael K. Anderson, P.E., Senior Environmental Engineer Telephone: 515-725-0336 E-mail: Michael.Anderson@dnr.iowa.gov According to this document, a permit is not required if the amount of use is below 25,000 gallons in 24 hours. The average homeowner will never use 25,000 gallons in 24 hours. Sioux City, Iowa recommends rain barrels. My interpretation here is that its not against the law in Iowa to harvest rain water for individual use. Please note, however, that there are very strict plumbing regulations on drinking water, and commercial water filtration devices.
Update January 15, 2014 regarding Michigan: back to top After 3 hours at the Michigan state government website, I found nothing saying that rain barrels, or rainwater harvesting by individual homeowners is against the law. I did find one document recommending the use of rain barrels (on page 5)by individual home owners here. I found another document recommending rain barrel usage here. Its not against state law in Michigan for homeowners to collect rain water, it is encouraged. There are, however hundreds of regulations regarding water in other applications. The information I read is at the following links: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3313—,00.html http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-oea-cau-permits-eqp3580_415019_7.pdf http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3313_3684_45331—,00.html http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/lwm-jpa-decisiontree_212935_7.pdf this link is particularly interesting. It shows graphically with a decision tree how to find out if you need a permit with regards to water usage. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-oea-cau-permits-eqp3580_415019_7.pdf http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-ess-caap-manufguide-chap9_313427_7.pdf http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(wry2xjekke5eleu1guc10255))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-451-1994-II-1-31 http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3306_28610—,00.html This link will take you to “definitions” used by the Michigan state government The following definitions were taken from the above document: this list was accessed January 15, 2014 at 0715 pst: Storm Water – Rainfall and snowmelt. Storm water runoff is regulated by the Clean Water Act. Surface Water – All water naturally open to the atmosphere, including lakes, streams,reservoirs, impoundments, rivers, wetlands, ponds, and most drains. Waters of the State – Includes groundwaters, lakes, rivers, and streams and all otherwatercourses and waters within the jurisdiction of the state, and also the Great Lakesbordering the state. Navigable Waters – Traditionally, lakes and streams sufficiently deep and wide enough to float alog. In Michigan, the term includes any waterway declared navigable by the MichiganSupreme Court. Groundwater – The supply of water found beneath the earth’s surface, usually in aquifers, whichis a source of water for wells and springs.
Update December 30, 2013 regarding Massachusetts: back to top Rain barrels are recommended by the Massachusetts government; its highly unlikely that they are “against the law”. See the links directly below: at this page (where the address was changed a little over 1 week after I posted this . . . hmmmmm, be cautioned Massachusetts gov’t – what is going on here; do we need to follow the money trail ? I hope not!!!! I just fixed the link as of Jan. 10, 2014; let’s see how long it lasts this time around. . . . ) follow the link that says “Massachusetts Water Conservation Standards” it will lead you to this pdf: Titled: “Water Conservation Standards” “The Commonwealth of MassachusettsEXECUTIVE OFFICE of ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRSandWATER RESOURCES COMMISSIONJuly 2006Updated June 2012″ http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/eea/wrc/watercons-standards.pdf on page 72 rain barrel sources are listed and recommended. Pages 68, 58, 44, 34, 33, 32, 28, 25, and 6 mention and recommend the use of rain barrels and/or rain water harvesting. Another pdf “Storm Smart Properties Fact Sheet 2: Controlling Overland Runoff to Reduce Coastal Erosion”found here: http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/czm/stormsmart/properties/ssp-factsheet-2-erosion.pdf recommends rain barrels to control runoff. See page 7 and page 8 of that document. The document says on page 8; “Certain techniques that do not alter the property, suchas reducing lawn irrigation or installing a rain barrel,can be easily done by the homeowner without a permit.” I must mention however, that I saw hundreds of complex regulations regarding water when I was reading through the content of the site. There may be financial pressures in place that could possibly allow abuse of regulations. Keep watching. Also know that there may be local restrictions on rain water harvesting in any area. For now, the average homeowner/citizens’ freedom with regard to rainwater harvesting appears unencumbered at the state level.
Update December 15, 2013 regarding Nebraska: back to top Read through the following links on the Nebraska state government website and associated sites. My conclusion is that it is not against the law to harvest rain water from your roof in Nebraska: http://www.deq.state.ne.us/ http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/browse-statutes.php The city of Lincoln Nebraska recommends setting up rain barrels The University of Nebraska recommends rain barrels For the individual homeowner, we found nothing at the state government website prohibiting rain barrels, roof water harvesting, or rain water harvesting. We found nothing “regulating” rain barrels, roof water harvesting or rain water harvesting. There are hundreds of regulations and extremely complicated laws regarding ground water, rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. Draw your own conclusions.
Update December 4, 2013 regarding Nevada: back to top Back in 2009, the University of Nevada published this information on setting up rain barrels, and rain water harvesting. At the Nevada state government website there is this info on water there are about 1900 various definitions, regulations and statements regarding water. I’ve read through them and not seen anything mentioning rain barrels or roof water harvesting. It is highly unlikely that the University would recommend rain barrels if they were against the law. It appears as though rain water harvesting by individuals for personal use is ok in Nevada. If anyone finds info to the contrary, please post your findings here with a link to the source.
Update: June 1, 2015: Apparently, Nevada does not allow rain water harvesting (rain barrels) without a water right. This was brought to my attention by Tracey Reuck, who posted a comment on this blog. His source is the Reno Gazette Journal. The article in this Journal quotes an email from JoAnn Kittrell, public information manager for the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources regarding the harvesting of rain water in rain barrels “”This is a question that comes up periodically. NRS 533.030 provides that ‘subject to existing rights, and except as otherwise provided in this section, all water may be appropriated for beneficial use as provided in this chapter and not otherwise.’ It is interpreted to mean that you can’t collect and use water, even if it is just a rain barrel, without the benefit of a water right.”” The article goes on to say:
“As to examples where someone in Nevada has been fined for an illegal rain barrel, she said, “The Division of Water Resources has not (policed), and does not plan to police, rain barrels.”
Update December 4, 2013 regarding Kentucky: back to top From the Kentucky state government website page: Kentucky Administrative Regulations TITLE 401 ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT CABINET DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION 401 KAR 4:010. Water withdrawal permits, criteria, reports. Reading section , 1 it does appear as though anything under 10,000 gallons per day does not require a permit. I found nothing on the rest of the website regarding rain water harvesting by individual homeowners. This could possibly mean that rain barrels are not illegal. Here are some more links to possible relevant pages on the Kentucky government website: http://water.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx http://dhbc.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx More from the state of Kentucky: http://www.msdlouky.org/aboutmsd/rainbarrels.htm From the University of Kentucky: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/henv/henv201/henv201.pdf The above links should be enough to show that rain barrels and rain water harvesting in Kentucky is not against the law.
Update December 3, 2013 regarding Indiana: back to top After some research at the Indiana government website regarding water and rain barrels, I found nothing prohibiting the use of rain barrels to store roof water runoff. I found that The state DNR encourgages the use of rain barrels as a method of reducing runoff and using water wisely. Read about the individuals right to water access here. Read more info for yourself : Indiana rules regarding water Read through this next link to discover how the Indiana state government agencies recommend rain barrels to prevent pollution.
Update October 27, 2013 regarding New Jersey: back to top I spent several hours at the New Jersey state gov’t. website. I found nothing specifically prohibiting rain water harvesting by individual home owners. I did find an unbelievably complex collection of rules regarding water sources other than rain water / roof water; read them for yourself and make your own interpretation: State Law: Interconnections Between Approved Public Potable and Unapproved Water Supplies Water Allocation and Registrations “A Water Allocation Permit is required for the diversion of ground and/or surface water in excess of 100,000* gallons per day for a period of more than 30 days in a 365 consecutive day period, for purposes other than agriculture, aquaculture or horticulture. This includes water diversions for public water supply, industrial processing and cooling, irrigation, sand and gravel operations, remediation, power generation, and other uses. For these use types diversion limits are set within a Water Allocation Permit, Water Use Registration, or Permit-by-Rule. A Water Use Registration is required for any person with the capability to divert in excess of 100,000* gallons of water per day, but who diverts less than this quantity.” Water allocation: SUBCHAPTER 6. WATER SUPPLY MANAGEMENT ACT RULES new jersey safe drinking water act Page with links to water related regulations there are over 300 links here
Update October 24, 2013 regarding Alabama: back to top It appears as though ALABAMA A&M AND AUBURN UNIVERSITIES extension service encourages rain water harvesting. It is highly unlikely that they would encourage something that is against state law. I have found nothing at the Alabama government website forbidding rain water harvesting by individuals. The section on permits does not mention rain water harvesting. This page from the Alabama government states that: “Rainwater harvesting and rainwater collection should remain a private property right”. back to top
Update: October 3, 2013: Although I have not found any information suggesting that “big government” is “making rainwater harvesting illegal” I have just found some related information that is very, very disturbing. This info is old, dating from the late 1930’s and 1942, but is still in effect. Read about the Wickard VS Filburn supreme court case here. And another, even more disturbing, more recent piece of information: Kelo Vs. (the city of) New London, regarding the power of eminent domain. To make a long story shorter, this whole thing boils down to mainly money; and to a lesser degree; agriculture, production quotas, and finding someone else to blame. Read the articles for yourself. They are not about water, but could easily be. Thirty two (32) states (see below) have very little regulation at all on rainwater harvesting. ONLY FOUR (4) states severely limit rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvesting is not “illegal in most states” as some would like to think. State government laws have NOT been “recently changing” to take away people’s rights to collect rain water. There is not some conspiracy by “big government” to “own” the rain. There is, however, in every case I have checked, considerable government regulation regarding those who try to hog millions of gallons of water for themselves. Wealthy people attempting to set up their own private water monopolies are the ones who scream the loudest. All that said, its still a good idea to keep a very close eye on government, and a much closer eye on big business, corporations and “water for profit”. Individual cities, counties, and “planned residential communities” may have ordinances making rain barrels, or rain water harvesting against their “laws”, which then puts the “regulation” in the hands of whoever can afford the best legal assistance. Corporations offering bottled water for sale and expensive distribution systems installed to enable real estate development are the result.
Update September 16; regarding West Virginia: back to top After several hours of research at the West Virgina state gov’t. website, I found nothing specifically prohibiting rain water harvesting as it would apply to the individual household needing water for domestic purposes by catching a few thousand gallons of rainwater to be stored for future use. I did find (again) that there are regulations on wells, ground water, and surface water use and water rights. The West Virginia website has an entire page describing how to set up rain water harvesting for the individual home owner. It is highly unlikely that rain barrels are “illegal in West Virginia” as far as the state government is concerned. Absolutely check with local authorities regarding additional laws. back to top
Update September 13; regarding Wyoming: back to top After several hours of research at the Wyoming state gov’t. website I found nothing specifically prohibiting rain water harvesting as it would apply to the individual household needing water for domestic purposes by catching a few thousand gallons of rainwater to be stored for future use. There are hundreds of pages of regulations on wells, ground water, and surface water use and water rights. There are very specific laws applying to anything other than “domestic” use, where large volumes of water are to be used (hundreds of gallons per hour). Read through the links below. Rain, as a direct source of water is not specifically mentioned as it would apply to “regulating” a homeowner setting up a rainwater harvesting system. There are laws specifically regulating appropriation of water from natural water flow in rivers, and streams, and flow into and out of lakes. The Wyoming state engineer’s office site has the best information. If one reads carefully through the state engineer’s office documents and the history of Wyoming water rights a better understanding of the situation in Wyoming may be attained. There are big water issues in Wyoming. It is very hot and dry there and water is a big issue. In areas where rainfall is low, there will likely be local regulations limiting water use.
Update August 26; regarding Florida: back to top There have been a number of searches accessing this blog regarding rain water harvesting legality in the state of Florida. After several hours of searching at the Florida state government’s site, I found nothing specifically prohibiting rain barrels, or rain water harvesting by individuals at the state level. I found that, in the Florida keys, rain water harvesting is the main source for all the water. Whether or not a person can “legally” set up rain barrels in this state will likely be determined mainly at the local level as of right now. This situation is likely to change. Again, the regulations regarding water use are extremely complex and there are hundreds of documents. Here are some of the main links I found: Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes :->2010->Chapter 373->Part IV : Online Sunshine www.dep.state.fl.us/water/waterpolicy/docs/2012_annual_rwsp.pdf Office of Water Policy – FDEP From these above links you will find the information used in this post, and interpretation. Also here is another link to a list of Florida building and plumbing codes: E-Codes From the above links, it can be shown that there are major water issues in Florida, including a long running dispute with the state of Georgia. Look for rainwater harvesting to become very important in this area of the country very soon. If you have arrived here searching for laws regarding rainwater harvesting, check first with your homeowner’s association, county, or city officials. Next check your state Department of Natural Resources. Update July 18, 2014 regarding Florida: I have searched through the Florida government website at the above links. I searched on rain water, roof water, rain barrels, surface water, runoff, rain water harvesting and found, after an hour of searching, nothing specifically prohibiting rain water harvesting by individuals. I did find over 100 links in Google results similar the the following links which show numerous state, and local municipalities encouraging rain barrel use : http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/conservation/rainbarrel/ http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/barrels.htm http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/environment/natural_resources.shtml http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu/fyn/rain_barrels.shtml Florida department of environmental protection http://www.protectingourwater.org/watersheds/get_wet/protectwater/rainbarrels/ http://www.fkaa.com/buildingrainbarrel.pdf http://www.miamidade.gov/waterconservation/rain-barrels.asp http://www.dunedingov.com/index.aspx?page=625 http://www.brevardcounty.us/NaturalResources/Watershed/RainBarrelWorkshops https://www.palmcoastgov.com/green/rain-barrels http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/index.aspx?NID=821 http://www.mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/utilities/potable-water-system/water-conservation/programs/rainbarrels.html In my humble opinion, it is highly unlikely that it is against state law in Florida to harvest rain water from your roof. If anyone reading this has proof otherwise, please leave a comment with a link to your source, and I will change this post accordingly . No link, no change.
Update August 21, 2013 Regarding Maine: I have found back to top nothing at the Maine state gov’t website stating that rain barrels, or rain water harvesting by individual homeowners is against state law. Also a search through the water rules page turned up nothing about rain barrels or rain water harvesting by individual homeowners. I have found a document describing how to set up rain barrels in Portland, Maine. There are so many rules about other water issues, that it would take hours to go through them all. I spent about 3 hours reading through some of the information. The general trend is to regulate and monitor large polluters, new construction, and potential polluters, and situations involving hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. It is highly unlikely that the city of Portland, Maine would be encouraging rain barrel use if it were against state law.
Update August 8, 2013 Regarding Tennessee: back to top I have found absolutely nothing on the Tennessee gov’t website to indicate that rain barrels or rain water harvesting by individuals is against the law. Above 50,000 gallons per day is mentioned as the lower limit at which any amount above requires a permit. This is in regards to ground water. Surface water is covered in another regulation but, the regulation does not mention rain water, or rain barrels. 50,000 gallons a day is wwwwaaaaaaayyyyyy more than anyone will ever collect in a rain barrel or even 100 rain barrels in 1 day. Read the info at the links provided above, and search the Tennessee gov’t website. If anyone finds “regulations” or “Tennessee water laws” making rain barrels or rain water harvesting below 50,000 gallons per day illegal, please post the link here. Rainwater harvesting and rain barrels are, in fact, encouraged in the city of Knoxville in conjunction with the University of Tennessee.
Update September 21, 2014 regarding Georgia: back to top Thanks to Andre for this update regarding Georgia: http://www.dca.state.ga.us/
Update July 17, 2013 Regarding Missouri: back to top Here is information on rain barrels from the Missouri state Department of Natural Resources If you read this it will become quite obvious that rain water harvesting using rain barrels is not against the law in Missouri, it is encouraged by the government. Thanks to Chrissy for this link http://dnr.mo.gov/env/wpp/opcert/docs/wwd-winter-2014.pdf
Update July 3, 2013: Regarding South Dakota: back to top I checked the South Dakota gov’t website. Rain barrels, or rainwater harvesting is not against the law in that state. There are regulations on water usage, but I found nothing regarding rain water harvesting being illegal. See the links directly below to read the gov’t words for yourself: Using water in South Dakota: http://denr.sd.gov/des/wr/wateruse.aspx Summary of permits: http://denr.sd.gov/documents/DENRPermittingSummary.pdf About water rights in South Dakota: http://denr.sd.gov/des/wr/watrightsapps.aspx At this link is a good explanation of South Dakota’s water laws. Read it carefully, along with the other information in the above links. Seems that South Dakota does not desire to interfere with the rights of the individual’s access to water. Looks like the state Gov’t has the good of the average citizen as a priority. I did not find ANY information stating that rain water harvesting was “illegal”: http://denr.sd.gov/des/wr/summary.aspx#Ownership
Illinois Update June 26, 2013:
Update June 26, 2013 regarding Illinois: back to top Rainwater harvesting is highly regulated and the “regulations” are incredibly complex. That said, the codes there have recently been changed to allow, what appears to be “rain barrels”. Here is a quote from the regulations: “Section 890.2105 Permits Where permits are required by the authority having jurisdiction, it shall be unlawful for any person to construct, install, alter, or cause to be constructed, installed, or altered any alternate water source system in a building or on a premise without first obtaining a permit from the authority having jurisdiction.A plumbing permit is not required for the following: ILLINOIS REGISTER DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH NOTICE OF PROPOSED AMENDMENTS a) Exterior rainwater catchment systems used for outdoor drip and subsurface irrigation with a maximum storage capacity of 360 gallons.b) Rainwater catchment systems for single family dwellings where all outlets,piping, and system components are located on the exterior of the building. This does not exempt the need for permits if required for electrical connections, tank supports, or enclosures.” If someone says “rainwater harvesting in Illinois is against the law”, they are partially correct. . . however, in reference to rain barrels, they are wrong. This is why I have given Illinois, a near failing grade on rainwater harvesting. Way ,way, wwwaaaayyyy too many regulations. Here is the URL of the pdf document I accessed on June 26, 2013 at 0930 PDT: http://www.pcaofchicago.com/Docs/Documents/Part_%20890_Plumbing_Code_Amendments_4_10_13.pdf this is from section 890.2105 which turns out to be page 137 on a “fit page width” pdf reader.
Update June 21, 2013 regarding Wisconsin: back to top Another search about the legality of harvesting rain water found this blog; this time regarding the state of Wisconsin We found 2 pages with info at the Wisconson DNR site. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/WaterUse/documents/PermittingFactsheet.pdf At the above link is the explanation of what they mean by “withdrawal” below is the info in quotes: “What is a withdrawal? What does it mean to withdraw?Withdraw or withdrawal means the taking of water from surface water or groundwater.There are many different methods for withdrawing water including wells, intake pipes,and ditches. When someone withdraws water, it is taken out of or redirected from its natural course making it unavailable for other purposes,even if only temporarily” The next link is to info that specifies when a permit is needed: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/WaterUse/permits.html “Water use permitting Background Effective December 8, 2011, a Water Use permit is required before persons may withdraw water in quantities that average 100,000 gallons per day (equivalent to 70 gallons per minute for 24 hours straight) or more in any 30-day period from groundwater or surface water in the Great Lakes Basin [PDF 764KB]. Examples include public water systems, high capacity well owners, and others who withdraw water from lakes and streams such as fish farms and golf courses.There are two types of Water Use permits:Water Use General Permit – Required for withdrawals that average 100,000 gallons per day or more in any 30-day period but do not equal at least 1,000,000 gallons per day for 30 consecutive days.Water Use Individual Permit – Required for withdrawals that equal at least 1,000,000 gallons per day for 30 consecutive days.” It is hardly concievable that a rain barrel setup at the average homeowner’s residence will use more than 100,000 gallons in a month. My interpretation is : its not against the law to set up rain barrels in Wisconsin. What’s yours? Does anyone from Wisconsin have any more info? Update June 27, 2013: More on Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kansas here
Update Regarding South Carolina: back to top Info on South Carolina’s rain water harvesting stance; links to the South Carolina’s DNR page: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/NERR/trainingharvest.html http://www.dnr.sc.gov/conservation.html South carolina’s laws regarding surface water are here click the link on “water law” chapter2 at this pdf look in chapter 2 page 2-12. It does not appear that South Carolina has any laws against rainwater harvesting. At the other S.C. DNR links above it is pointed out that South Carolina gets lots of rain throughout the through the state. We checked websites originating in South Carolina, particularly these from Clemson University, with detailed information regarding setting up small rainwater harvesting systems.
Update June 23, 2013 regarding Arkansas back to top Another search looking for rainwater harvesting legality. This time the search was regarding Arkansas. I found the following at the Arkansas state government website: from page 44, Appendix A From state government Arkansas water planArkansas soil and water conservation CommissionExecutive Summary found here (on page 4 of the pdf): http://www.anrc.arkansas.gov/water%20resources%20management/basin%20reports/awp_executive_summary.pdf “SUBTITLE II. SURFACE WATER DIVERSION REGISTRATION. Section 302.1. REQUIREMENT TO REGISTER. (a) All persons who divert surface water. except as hereinafter exempted, shall report the diversion no later than March I st for the prior water (b) The reports shall be made on forms provided by the Commission and shall be made to the Commission or to their local Conservation Districl. (c) Late registrations will be accepted only upon the payment of the appropriate fee as established by Section 302.7. Section 302.2. EXEMPTIONS: The following diversions are exempt from the requirement of registration: (a) Diversions by any person of less than 325,900 gallons (I acre-foot of water in any water year. (b) Water diverted from natural lakes or ponds in the exclusive ownership of one person. (c) Diffused surface water.” If you read through the beginning of this document you will find the definitions of “diversion”. Looks like its not against the law to collect rainwater in Arkansas, providing you don’t “hog” all the water. This is a continuing pattern. The average person is not prevented from capturing rain water.
Kansas Update February 24 regarding Kansas: back to top A recent search that found this blog was asking why it is against the law to capture rainwater in Kansas. I did some research and found some info. There was a link to it last year. The state website has changed and I could not find that information on the site. This appears to be another website like the Massachusetts site where pages and information strangely disappear regularly. This link shows more about water use in Kansas. A quote from the page: “Water Law Basics Why Do I Need a Water Right? Water, like other natural resources enjoyed so bountifully by Kansans, is protected for the use and benefit of the citizens of this state. Water should be used wisely and good conservation measures should be practiced by all water users. The Kansas Water Appropriation Act protects both the people’s right to use Kansas water and the state’s supplies of groundwater and surface water for the future. The law is administered by the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources, which issues permits to appropriate water, regulates usage, and keeps records of all water rights in the state. It is illegal for individuals in Kansas to use water without holding a vested right or applying for, and receiving a permit to appropriate water from the Division of Water Resources. The exception is water used solely for domestic purposes – that is, water primarily used for the household, watering livestock on pasture, or watering up to two acres of lawn and gardens. No permit is needed for that class of water usage.” If you live in Kansas, check carefully before you set up rain barrels. Here are links to rain barrel sources in Kansas: http://www.marc.org/Environment/Water-Resources/Landscaping-and-Lawn-Care/Rain-Barrels.aspx http://www.dkcoks.org/index.aspx?NID=527 https://www.bridgingthegap.org/rain-barrels/ http://www.kcare.ksu.edu/doc3919.ashx http://www.kcare.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=914 http://www.opkansas.org/resident-resources/environment/at-home/rain-barrel/
District of Columbia (Washington DC):
Thanks to Kristan for this info regarding the District of Columbia:
District of Columbia info missing- but FYI it is encouraged, and for commercial development is REQUIRED because there is so little opportunity for runoff to be absorbed and the storm system is overwhelmed during major rain events. They even offer a rain barrel rebate for home owners, $1 per gallon capacity when you buy and install a 50-gal+ barrel, or you can be wait listed for them to provide and install one for you. I used this program and put one on my basement apartment for my landlords.
Update, 5/28/2013: After some more research on this issue of rainwater harvesting regulations, I have found that this issue is far more complex than just a few links to some “authoritative” sources, and rainwater harvesting regulations are still nebulous and nearly impossible to document accurately. I have been unable to find a reliable source with links to each state’s actual regulations or lack of regulations. I think it may be possible but it would take hundreds of hours to accurately document each state’s legislation with links directly to each state’s government, and those links would likely change very quickly. (as of June 2014, I have done that research – it is ongoing and I already have over 100 hours of time checking every state government website and associated websites) I have read through some of the legislation in the California state government, the Virginia state government, the Washington state government, Utah state government, and the Oregon state government; and a research paper put out by the EPA, which states on page iii: “This document was prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Water, Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. The EPA Project Manager for this document was Chris Solloway, who provided overall direction and coordination. EPA was supported in the development of this document by The Low Impact Development Center, Inc and Geosyntec Consultants. ” This document can be found (as of May 28, 2013) here: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/upload/rainharvesting.pdf As I am sure that very soon this url will be obfuscated, here is contact info regarding this paper: “Rainwater Harvesting: Conservation, Credit, Codes, and Cost Literature Review and Case StudiesContact InformationFor more information, questions, or comments about this document, contactChris Solloway at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water,Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, MailCode 4503T, Washington, DC 20460, or by email at Solloway.Chris@epamail.epa.gov. January 2013 EPA-841-R-13-002” Some of the above mentioned documents are extremely difficult to understand and most likely require interpretation by lawyer for a complete understanding. We have no problem with the truth. If anyone has documentation of errors in the content of this post, please do supply links to the sources suggesting corrections. The information I am posting here is as of February 26, 2013. This info will most likely change. Again, please; if you have new information on anything posted here, please post it with a link to the source, and this post will be changed to reflect the new information. Here is a link to info that is updated frequently regarding the current status of rainwater (roof water) harvesting regulation in each state in the United States. The above link appears to load poorly. Here is another link to the same site that lists incentives and regulations state by state The National Conference of state legislatures has this webpage with somewhat different rain water harvesting information regarding the states that have regulations in place regarding rain water (roof water) harvesting. This page claims that there are 12 states, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where rainwater harvesting is dealt with by government regulations and suggestions: Arizona | Colorado | Illinois | North Carolina | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Rhode Island | Texas | Utah | Virginia | Washington | U.S. Virgin Islands Please note: what follows below contains interpretation of facts and may be inaccurate: Also here is my interpretation of the data, giving the highest grade to states with laws (or lack of them) that respect individual freedom, and failing grades to states with excessive restrictions on individual freedom with regard to rain water (roof water) harvesting, and please be advised that much of this info is second hand and possibly unreliable:
Idaho back to top A+
Idaho rainwater harvesting is basically unregulated except for restricting use of rain water that has entered natural water ways. This state’s attitude makes the most sense. Here is a link to another site that has some info on Idaho. Here is a link to a letter from the Attorney General of Idaho basically indicating why I give an A+ to Idaho for having the best and most rational law regarding rainwater harvesting. —————————————————————————————————————————–
The following get an A (no laws or statutes regarding rainwater harvesting) Wyoming West Virginia Wisconsin Vermont Tennessee South Carolina Rhode Island Pennsylvania Oklahoma North Dakota New York New Jersey New Hampshire Nevada Nebraska Montana Missouri Mississippi Michigan Massachusetts Maryland Maine Louisiana Kentucky Kansas Iowa Indiana Delaware Connecticut Arkansas Alaska Alabama —————————————————————————————————————————–
Washington State Update Regarding Washington State: back to top The following get an A- Washington state has laws and incentives. Rain water harvesting is legal, and basically non-encumbered for the average homeowner. There is a policy statement here in pdf format. Virginia has incentives. No restrictions. Some legislation. Texas promotes rainwater harvesting. Lots of info, and state involvement. North Carolina has incentives. Has requirements that rainwater harvesting must be used and adopted. New Mexico has strict regulations on water rights, but no regulations on the “ownership” of rainwater. Hawaii no regulations against and it is not illegal Florida Is working on incentives and regulations. Not against the law.
—————————————————————————————————————————– B+ Arizona has a positive, permissive attitude about rainwater harvesting and some incentives are offered. There are regulations. —————————————————————————————————————————–
Oregon B- Oregon has restrictions, and regulations, however rainwater harvesting is permitted; provided it is harvested from roof surfaces only. The state government has recommendations here on how to set up rain barrels. The previous link was found by searching here for “cistern”. Some of Oregon’s rules regarding water can be found here. back to top —————————————————————————————————————————–
C+ California has a huge list of regulations must read to understand. Overwhleming. —————————————————————————————————————————–
D+ Minnesota not much info available. Georgia has recently changed its laws in favor of rain water harvesting . . . . however, the state’s laws say that local authority trumps the state authority. This, in effect, makes rain water harvesting severely impaired and keeps the door open to corporate water monopoly. So Georgia gets a nearly failing grade. Sorry, Georgia. ==================================================== The following states are miserable failures as far as rain water harvesting. If you live in one of these states I truly feel sorry for you.
F Illinois rainwater harvesting is regulated and limited, but they are working on it.
F Colorado has started allowing some rainwater harvesting, but it is still severely limited and highly regulated. Read it here for yourself: Only some people can legally collect rainwater.
F Ohio lots of restrictions and regulations. The most restrictive and regulated state in the country. Read some of the gov’t info in the following pdf: Ohio state gov’t appears to “allow” rainwater harvesting. =====================================================
There are some regulations which differ from state to state; but the practice of rainwater harvesting and setting up rain barrels and / or storage systems for use by the individual is not “against state law”. There are links below to the sources of my research results and to other’s research results. See the links I have listed below in this post, to read the info for yourself. Keep in mind, however, that “Government” may very well be influenced by money. If you are looking for infringement on people’s right to collect rain water, follow the money trail.) Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, California and Utah have numerous restrictions on rainwater harvesting, but it is not “illegal” in those states. ( Note that California’s rules and regulations are extremely complex and borderline on infringement of individual rights; be sure to follow the money trail there.) Colorado, and Utah Update Regarding Utah: back to top Utah still has restrictions, but has recently allowed rainwater harvesting. They clearly state on their website at the aforementioned link that rainwater harvesting is legal. This law is very similar to the one in Washington state. Utah shows a very informed reasonable approach to rain water harvesting Colorado: Colorado’s laws regarding rain water are still backward, archaic and ridiculous; however they are changing – slowly. There are still unreasonable, irrational, and mis-informed restrictions involving “ownership of rain water” in this state. If you live in Colorado, you are just out of luck unless you are on a well, or have water rights to your land. Washington state changed their laws in 2009 to allow rain water harvesting for any homeowner in a very similar fashion to Utah. If you live in Washington state or Utah, congratulations, your state government is apparently getting a clue. Set up your rain barrels. Keep in mind that there may be, however, some communities that exist in any U.S. state, where “rain barrels” are prohibited by local ordinances; and “home owner’s associations” may have strict regulations specifically prohibiting rain barrels . Fortunately, this closed minded outdated way of thinking here in the states is changing for the better and rain water harvesting is growing in acceptance.