USA: How to Find Out if Rainwater Harvesting is Legal in Your Area

In South Africa, fortunately there are no restrictions on rainwater harvesting and the installation of rain water tanks. In the USA however, rainwater harvesting can be illegal in certain states or cities; this article will hopefully be of help to our US readers.

Many homeowners have an eye out for ways they can conserve energy and natural resources while maintaining the upkeep on their homes and yards. One method of water conversation that’s grown in popularity is also becoming a source of controversy. Rainwater harvesting – the term used to describe the process of collecting rainwater in a large rain barrel or rainwater tank – is supported and opposed for a variety of reasons.

On the one hand, harvesting rain water reduces the need to use water from the main water line to water the yard or garden. Rainwater can also be used to wash dishes and clothing, or clean the house. But those who oppose rainwater harvesting assert that people who collect rainwater are stealing a natural resource that’s needed in nearby water sources such as streams, springs, and wells.

Before setting up a rain barrel or rain water tank, those in favor of harvesting rainwater should find out if it’s legal to do so in their area.

rain barrels

A large rain barrel can collect rainwater to use in the yard and home.

Harvesting Rainwater for Personal Use

  1. Check with City/State Government. Although consumers can check with their state government, it may be easier to contact a city office for clarification on the current laws regarding rainwater harvesting. In addition to being able to convey statewide laws, city officials will also be able to let residents know if there are any water use regulations that can be impacted by using water from a rain barrel or rain water tank.
  2. Consumers Should Let State Representatives Know Where They Stand. Individuals who live in a state that prohibits rainwater harvesting should make sure their voices are heard. Contacting a state representative is an effective way to share thoughts and ideas on the topic of rainwater harvesting.
  3. Seek Water Conservation Alternatives. If harvesting rainwater isn’t allowed, there are other ways to conserve water while waiting for laws to change. Small changes such as running the dishwasher or washing machine only when full can make a big difference over the course of the year. Likewise, quick showers save gallons of water in contrast to a long, hot bath.
  4. Prepare for Rainwater Harvesting. There are currently 13 states across the country allowing rainwater harvesting. Those who are fortunate enough to live in one of those states can prepare for maximum water collection by making sure to clean and maintain their gutters. This allows rainwater to flow freely into the waiting rain barrels or rainwater tanks.
  5. Checking Back with Government Officials. Just because a particular state doesn’t allow rainwater harvesting now doesn’t mean they won’t next year. Residents should check back with city or state officials each year to see if progress is being made toward allowing the harvesting of rainwater.
rain harvest systems

Using harvested rainwater to water the garden can result in savings on your water bill

Knowing the Particulars Before Getting Started

Since each state has its own laws regarding rainwater harvesting, it’s wise for homeowners to double-check before they begin using a rain barrel or rain water tank in their yard.

For instance, in Colorado it’s legal to sell and own a rain barrel or rain water tank, but illegal to use it for its intended purpose without permission.

Conversely, other states, such as New Mexico and those located in the Southwest, offer residents incentives if they use rain barrels or rainwater tanks.

Finding out whether or not a particular state allows rainwater harvesting can save consumers a great deal of frustration and out-of-pocket expense for doing something they view as beneficial that goes against state law.

Source:  Mary Ylisela (Mary Ylisela is a writer who writes and feels passionate about topics pertaining to green living and environmental conservation.)

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