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Collecting Rainwater Has Become Illegal in Many States

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Yes, it’s hard to believe but some states really have outlawed rainwater collection!

The first time I saw this was a very visible case back in 2012 involving Gary Harrington, an Oregon man convicted of rain harvesting. He served a 30 day jail sentence. It may have been a little over-hyped but raised some incredibly important issues.

  • The need to address encroachment on our basic freedoms … why shouldn’t we all be able collect rain water at least on our own properties
  • The need to be more conscious of our environment and in many states conserve water more effectively. I live in California, and a lot of us are looking at rain collection systems as the state drought conditions continue
  • The need to just plain exercise some common sense in what is legislated. Laws restricting collection of rain water unnecessarily tax our law enforcement officials, are incredibly inefficient, and, well, just plain crazy.


This isn’t just about state laws. It appears many cities and counties have fairly strict building and utility codes that can also significantly constrain collection of rain water.

Last year, a case in Cape Floral, Florida involving Robin Speronis got a lot of attention when it was ruled she could live off the utility power grid but that she was still required to use the cities water system. The issue is more complicated than just water collection since it appears to involve building code issues, but cities and states need to show some reasonable discrimination and common sense in legislating how we provide ourselves with water and power.


According to Collectively Conscious, several western states outright ban harvesting of rain water. They note that even when studies validate the benefit of allowing rain water collection some states such as Colorado go a different direction:

… Douglas County, Colorado, conducted a study on how rainwater collection affects aquifer and groundwater supplies. The study revealed that letting people collect rainwater on their properties actually reduces demand from water facilities and improves conservation.

My research shows that Colorado and Nevada outlaw harvesting and Oregon places some restrictions to only collect roof rainwater. Note, the Colorado legislature is now looking at modifying their laws to allow water collection. put a very nice list together identifying the legistlative position of all 50 states relative to rain harvesting. You can get the list at this link: Rain Harvesting regulations by state.

The big message here is “PAY ATTENTION.” Even if you don’t have specific rain harvesting restrictions, city and county building and utility codes could drastically limit your ability to harvest rain water and do many other things necessary to live off-the-grid. Other states could enact similar legislation restricting rain harvesting in the future. If you see your state (city or county) doing something that doesn’t make sense, speak up and make yourself heard, contact your congressmen. Some rules make sense, some don’t, don’t allow enactment of senseless legislation that needlessly restricts our freedoms and our ability to life more efficiently, more sustainably, and more self-sufficiently.

If you found this interesting, we suggest you see How to Build a Rainwater Collection System.

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