Skip to Content

Is collecting rainwater a crime? It is in some states.

This story caught my eye because rainwater collection is something we've thought of setting up to supplement our garden.  It made me wonder if in Idaho, where there are water rights laws, if capturing rainwater would be a problem.  As it turns out, collecting rainwater on your own property is fine so long as it does not cause "injury" to the exising, legal water rights of others (state-permitted users).  Other states are not the same.

States such as Utah, Colorado and Washington (more on the various laws later) have had laws on the books limiting property owners from collecting the water falling on their own homes and land since officials say the rain belongs to someone else.

In 2008, Mark Miller of Mark Miller Toyota in Utah, found out some startling information.

In order to make his dealership more environmentally friendly, Miller began collecting rainwater on top of his building in cisterns in order to wash cars with it.

However, state officials said without a valid water right, Miller could not legally divert rainwater.

“I was surprised, we thought it was our water,” Miller said in a news interview.

In the same interview, a state official eluded to the fact that it’s an old legal concept to protect people that have water rights.

Yep that’s right, even with a natural occurrence such as rain, one could technically say it’s being turned into a commodity.

What’s next, state officials saying those who have a garden on their property can no longer garden unless they pay a dirt tax? Just consider how this can be expanded into different areas including air, plants, etc. and I guarantee you will come to some troubling conclusions.

Read more here.  From the same article, here are some references to the various state laws:


Arizona has a tax credit for water conservation systems that includes collection of rainwater; however, the credit is slated to expire on Jan. 1, 2012. The credit is equal to 25 percent of the cost of the system. The maximum credit in a taxable year may not exceed $1,000. From 2007 to 2010, over $360,000 has been credited to homeowners that purchased some sort of water conservation system.Arizona Revised Statutes §43-1090.01


Colorado had some of the strictest laws in the nation prohibiting rainwater harvesting. In 2009, two laws were passed that loosened restrictions.

CO SB 80 allowed residential property owners who rely on certain types of wells to collect and use rainwater. Colorado Revised Statutes §37-90-105

CO HB 1129 authorized 10 pilot projects where captured precipitation was used in new real estate developments for non-potable uses. Colorado Revised Statutes §37-60-115



In 2009, Illinois created the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act which relates to water conservation, efficiency, infrastructure and management while promoting rainwater harvesting. Illinois Revised Statutes Chapter 415 §56


Ohio allows rainwater harvesting, even for potable purposes. Private water systems that provide drinking water to fewer than 25 people are regulated by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). Ohio also has a Private Water Systems Advisory Council within the ODH. The nine member council is appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Ohio Revised Code §3701.344and Ohio Revised Code §3701.346


Ohio Department of Health Private Water Systems website


Since Oregon allows for alternate methods of construction of rainwater harvesting systems, the Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD) created methods for both potable and non-potable systems. Oregon Revised Statute §455.060

Senate Bill 79, passed in 2009, directs the BCD to increase energy efficiency, by including rainwater harvesting, in new and repaired buildings.



Texas Health and Safety Code §341.042 outlines standards for harvested rainwater.

Texas Property Code §202.007 prevents homeowners associations from banning outdoor water-conserving measures, including rainwater harvesting installations. The legislation allows homeowners associations to require screening or shielding to obscure view of the tanks.

Texas Tax Code §151.355 allows for a state sales tax exemption on the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment.


The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting provides information on the practice and outlines sales tax exemptions at the state and local level (pg. 53).

In 2005, the legislature ordered the creation of a Texas Rainwater Harvesting Evaluation Committee; see here for its 2006 Report to Texas Legislature with Recommendations.

The Texas Water Development Board sponsors the Texas Rain Catcher Award to advance the technology, educate the public, and to recognize excellence in the application of rainwater harvesting systems in the state.


Utah allows for the direct capture and storage of rainwater on land owned or leased by the person responsible for the collection. If a person collects or stores precipitation in an underground storage container, only one container with a maximum capacity of no more than 2,500 gallons may be used. For a covered storage container, no more than two containers may be used, and the maximum storage capacity of any one container shall not be greater than 100 gallons. Utah Code Annotated §73-3-1.5


In 2001, Virginia passed Senate Bill 1416, which gave income tax credit to individuals and corporations that installed rainwater harvesting systems. “There is hereby established the Alternative Water Supply Assistance Fund to be administered by the Department to provide grants to localities to be used for entering into agreements with businesses and individuals to harvest and collect rainwater for such uses as determined necessary by the locality, including, but not limited to, irrigation and conservation.”However money has not been allocated for these purposes.


Virginia Rainwater Harvesting Manual


In Washington, state law allows counties to reduce rates for storm water control facilities that utilize rainwater harvesting. Rates may be reduced by a minimum of ten percent for any new or remodeled commercial building. However, the rate can be reduced more than ten percent, depending on the county. Kitsap County’s Ordinance reduces surface and stormwater fees by 50 percent. Washington Revised Code §36.89.080

Uses for harvested rainwater may include water closets, urinals, hose bibbs, industrial applications, and for irrigation purposes. Other uses may be allowed when first approved by the authority having jurisdiction. Washington Revised Code §51-56-1623


In 2009, the Washington Department of Ecology issued an Interpretive Policy Statement clarifying that a water right is not required for rooftop rainwater harvesting.

Washington Department of Ecology Rainwater Collection website

U.S. Virgin Islands

Since 1964, the U.S. Virgin Islands has required most buildings to be constructed with a self-sustaining potable water system, such as a well or rainwater collection system.
U.S. Virgin Island Code Title 29 §308


It is good to see states are

It is good to see states are changing their laws about rainwater harvesting.  I was surprised to think the blessing of a good rain could be governed.

story | by Dr. Radut