Many homeowners have begun harvesting rainwater to reduce their household water use. This practice reduces your water bill while conserving local water resources and helping recharge groundwater. However, rainwater harvesting is a legal gray area in the United States. Currently, no federal laws allow, forbid, or regulate the collection of rainwater. As a result, it’s specifically a state issue, with each state having different water laws regulating its collection and usage.
In this article, we’ll help you understand your rights on water harvesting by looking into the laws, benefits, and restrictions for rainwater collection in each state.
What Is Rainwater Harvesting?
Rainwater harvesting, sometimes called catchment, is the process of capturing precipitation and storing it for later use. Many homeowners use rainwater as a water source for irrigating their gardens, potted plants, or potentially entire yard. Some homeowners even filter, boil, and drink it, even though some studies advise against it.
Most rainwater harvesting systems consist of a capturing device, typically a home’s gutter system, a filter, and a cistern (large tanks or barrels meant to hold the rainwater). As it rains, the rainwater collection system captures the stormwater runoff, then filters and sends it to a cistern for storage. Then, homeowners are free to use their at-home water supply for potable (human consumption) or non-potable (not for human consumption) purposes. Potable uses include using it as a source of drinking water, either filtered or unfiltered, and using it to boil food. Non-potable uses include using it to clean items or structures, water plants, or for other irrigation purposes.
What Are the State Regulations on Rainwater Harvesting?
|State||Regulation Y/N||Encouraged Y/N||Description|
|Alabama||No||No||Water collection is considered a private property right with no regulations.|
|Alaska||No||No||Rainwater harvesting is the primary means of water collection for many Alaskan homeowners and is unregulated.|
|Arizona||No||No||In Arizona, there are bills that allow towns to generate funds for harvesting systems.|
|Arkansas||Yes||No||According to Arkansas code § 17-38-201, homeowners can harvest rainwater as long as it’s non-potable, the harvesting system is installed by a licensed plumber, is designed with appropriate coss-connection safeguards, and is up to plumbing code.|
|California||Yes||No||The Rainwater Capture Act of 2012 allows homeowners, property owners, government agencies, and business owners to harvest rainwater as long as it’s for approved purposes.|
|Colorado||Yes||No||House Bill 16-1005 states that homeowners are allowed to collect a maximum of two rain barrels with a combined capacity of 110 gallons. That water may also only be used outdoors.|
|Connecticut||No||Yes||No regulation exists on rainwater collection, and the state encourages its homeowners to do so.|
|Delaware||No||Yes||No regulations exist, and there are state-sponsored incentive programs.|
|Florida||No||Yes||Florida possesses no rainwater harvesting restrictions and has incentive and rebate programs.|
|Georgia||Yes||No||Rainwater is tightly regulated by the Department of Natural Resources and must only be applied for outdoor use.|
|Hawaii||No||Yes||Rainwater harvesting is highly encouraged by Hawaii’s local government.|
|Idaho||Yes||No||Homeowners are allowed to capture and use rainwater as long as it does not re-enter natural waterways.|
|Illinois||Yes||No||According to the Plumbing-Rainwater Systems Bill SB0038, rainwater harvesting systems must be up to state plumbing code, and the water must be used for non-potable purposes.|
|Indiana||No||Yes||There are no restrictions on rainwater harvesting, and it’s encouraged by the state.|
|Iowa||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
|Kansas||No||No||Rainwater harvesting is legal in Kansas for domestic use.|
|Kentucky||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
|Louisiana||Yes||No||Rainwater harvesting is legal in Louisiana as long as the tank holding or capturing the rainwater is properly covered and sealed.|
|Maine||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
|Maryland||No||Partially||Maryland does not currently have any regulations on rainwater harvesting, with some counties offering incentive programs.|
|Massachusetts||No||Yes||Massachusetts does not have any restrictions on rainwater harvesting and encourages its residents to do so.|
|Michigan||No||Yes||It’s legal to harvest rainwater in Michigan, with the state encouraging its residents to do so.|
|Minnesota||No||Yes||Minnesota allows and encourages its residents to harvest rainwater.|
|Mississippi||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
|Missouri||No||Yes||There are no restrictions or regulations on water harvesting in Missouri, and the state encourages its homeowners to do so.|
|Montana||No||Yes||The state of Montana does not regulate or restrict rainwater harvesting, actively encouraging its residents to do so.|
|Nebraska||No||Yes||There are no regulations or restrictions on rainwater harvesting in Nebraska, with several universities offering incentives.|
|Nevada||Yes||No||Rainwater collection was illegal in Nevada until 2017. However, Bill Number 138 now states that rainwater can be collected for domestic use as long as it’s non-potable.|
|New Hampshire||No||Yes||New Hampshire encourages its residents to collect rainwater and places no restrictions or regulations on its harvesting.|
|New Jersey||No||Yes||New Jersey Assembly Bill 2442 offers rebate programs for homeowners that use specific harvesting methods.|
|New Mexico||No||Yes||New Mexico places no regulations or restrictions on rainwater harvesting and encourages its residents to do so.|
|New York||No||Yes||New York does not restrict or regulate rainwater harvesting.|
|North Carolina||Yes||No||Rainwater harvesting is allowed with specific regulations, such as the water being used for non-potable purposes, pipes for rainwater harvesting being labeled as purple, and collection tanks being marked as non-potable water.|
|North Dakota||No||Yes||North Dakota does not restrict or regulate rainwater harvesting and encourages its citizens to do so.|
|Ohio||Yes||No||According to Ohio Rev. Code §3701.344, rainwater can be harvested for potable and non-potable purposes for any household or group of fewer than 25 people, with restrictions on what materials can be used in its collection.|
|Oklahoma||No||No||There are no restrictions or regulations on harvesting rainwater in Oklahoma at this time.|
|Oregon||Yes||No||Rainwater collection is legal, often requiring a permit and restricting homeowners to outdoor systems (such as through rooftop collection).|
|Pennsylvania||No||Yes||Harvesting rainwater in Pennsylvania has no restrictions or regulations and is encouraged.|
|Rhode Island||No||Yes||State Bill 7070 provides tax incentives for up to 10% of the cost of the installation of cisterns.|
|South Carolina||No||Yes||Rainwater harvesting has no restrictions or regulations in South Carolina, with the state encouraging its practice.|
|South Dakota||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
|Tennessee||No||No||Tennessee does not have any laws regulating or restricting the harvesting of rainwater.|
|Texas||Yes||Yes||Texas has multiple regulations on harvesting rainwater, such as requiring written notice to be given to the municipality. But, the state also offers various incentives like no tax on rain barrels.|
|Utah||Yes||No||Utah has strict regulations on rainwater harvesting. Specifically, you must register your harvesting system, use the water on the land it was harvested on, and collect no more than 2,500 gallons of rainwater. Unregistered systems may collect no more than 100 gallons.|
|Vermont||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
|Virginia||Yes||Yes||Virginia encourages its residents to harvest rainwater, with Senate Bill 1416 offering tax credits to those with rainwater collection and harvesting systems. There are regulations as well, such as rainwater only being used for non-potable purposes, and the first 4 inches of water must be flushed via a diverter.|
|Washington||Yes||No||It’s legal to collect rainwater in Washington, but there are regulations. You must use the water on the property it was collected on, the system for collecting water must serve another purpose (such as irrigation), and each county has different rules on the potability of rainwater.|
|West Virginia||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
|Wisconsin||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
|Wyoming||No||No||No rainwater harvesting regulations exist in the state at this time.|
Harvesting rainwater is a great way to reduce your water bill while helping the environment by aiding in groundwater recharge. Unfortunately, there are no federally mandated water rights, so it’s up to each state to determine its laws on water conservation and usage. The good news is that no state outright bans rainwater harvesting, but many heavily restrict and regulate it. On the other hand, many states encourage residents to collect water to reduce public water usage, offering lucrative incentives and tax rebates.