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Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater? You’ll Be Surprised

Many areas of the country enforce water restrictions during dry seasons. Activities like watering your lawn, washing vehicles, and filling swimming pools typically land on a list of regulations. Some homeowners take their water supply issues into their own hands and invest in rainwater collection systems. However, some face legal issues despite their efforts to go green. Is it illegal to collect rainwater? Let’s look and see.

Can You Collect Rainwater?

Collecting rainwater can be a relatively simple process. Many homes use gutters to transport water away from a house or dwelling. A basic rain collection system could be as simple as a barrel collecting water from a home’s roof. These are standard systems in use by gardeners for a healthy water supply for their plants.

💧Best Ways to Collect Rainwater

Some take their rain collection to the next level and create complex systems involving filters and pumps. Depending on the system, this water could provide potable water and meet the general residential needs of homeowners. However, these systems aren’t cheap and depend on water. Homeowners may need to order water during the dry season if this is their only source.

Pro Tip: Get the inside scoop about What Is a Rainwater Collection System to make collecting your own rainwater easy.

Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater? 

Currently, no federal laws prohibit collecting rainwater. However, the state and local governments handle restrictions. This allows state and local governments to create legislation and regulations that best fit their unique needs and environment.

Restrictions vary by state. Alaska has zero restrictions for collecting rainwater. Because there are many remote locations in the state, it’s the primary water source for many residents. While Alaska encourages collecting rainwater, not all states are as keen on the idea.

Legal rainwater collection device installed next to a home
Lower your water bill by collecting rainwater.

Arkansas is one state that doesn’t make it easy for residents wishing to collect rainwater. The state prohibits using rainwater for potable purposes, and a licensed professional engineer must design the entire system. The system must also comply with the state’s plumbing code. That’s a lot of red tape to work through to help the environment!

Where Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater in the US?

You can legally collect rainwater in all 50 states in the United States. However, restrictions will vary by state. Some states restrict how much water you can collect, and others restrict how you can collect it. You must be aware of any restrictions specific to your state before you plan a water collection system. 

diagram of state where it is illegal to collect rainwater in 2022

Can You Go to Jail for Collecting Rainwater?

When states create regulations, they typically enforce them. However, collecting rainwater isn’t near the top of the list of severe crimes. You’re likely not going to go to jail for collecting rainwater.

However, that wasn’t the case for Oregon native Gary Harrington. Harrington collected enough water to fill nearly 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. So while you’re unlikely to collect that much water, it is possible in some places to go to jail for collecting rainwater.

Close up of a rainwater collection tank next to a home
Depending on what state you live in, you may be able to collect rainwater.

Some States Allow (and Even Encourage) Rainwater Collection

While it is not illegal to collect rainwater, there can be restrictions. However, many states encourage residents to collect rainwater. This is primarily in the northeast, Florida, Hawaii, and other states that see generous yearly rainfall. Most states have restrictions on how residents can collect and use water, but residents of these states can massively reduce their water bills.

How Do You Collect Rainwater?

To collect rainwater, you’ll need a water collection system. The system’s first part is the roof of a diagonal structure, usually a home or other dwelling. The water runs down the roof and into a series of gutters that transport the water to a storage tank. More complex systems require pumps and filters to move and purify water.

Some of the most basic rainwater collection systems will be nothing more than a large wood or metal barrel at the base of a gutter. This barrel stores the water, and the homeowner can use the collected water for plants and other non-potable purposes.

Buckets sitting out in rain collecting rainwater
Many countries encourage rainwater collection.

Is Rainwater Safe to Drink? 

While you can use rainwater for many purposes, you should be cautious when drinking it. Rainwater can contain germs and other contaminants, including bacteria, parasites, viruses, and other things that can make you sick. Not only can there be chemicals from pollution in the air, but also the roof materials, gutters, piping, and storage containers.

The CDC does not recommend drinking rainwater that you haven’t adequately treated. You’ll need to treat any rainwater you plan to drink, which can be laborious. You’ll first need to test your rainwater to see what you’ll filter out. This requires constant monitoring and testing to avoid drinking contaminated water.

Pro Tip: If you’re in a pinch and need to consume rainwater, use these 5 Ways to Purify Water for Survival in the Wilderness.

Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater in Other Countries?

Similar to the United States, laws regarding rainwater collection vary significantly by country. However, most countries encourage the practice and view rainwater collection as a good thing.

Australia, the second driest continent, once provided households with up to $500 for rainwater collection systems. There are estimates that 26% of Australian homes use some rainwater collection system. The more water supply issues grow, the more countries may encourage rainwater collection.

Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid when Harvesting Rain Water

Know Where You Can and Can’t Collect Rainwater

You don’t want to get in trouble with the law while trying to be environmentally conscious. Know the rules and regulations in your area and follow them. Ensure you apply for any permits that might be necessary and only lawfully use collected rainwater. Properly treat any water you plan to consume to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Many people turn to Berkey water filters to make contaminated water drinkable, but are they worth the price? Find out: Are Berkey Water Filter Systems Worth It?

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Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

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She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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