Rain is a gift of nature as we all know. We can take advantage of having free water by collecting rainwater for various uses. But is collecting rainwater legal or not in the U.S.? Well, you are about to find out.
Thanks to recent legislation, the current law in most states reflects a fair amount of freedom for homeowners to collect rainwater and use it to supplement their normal usage. But it wasn’t always that way. It may surprise you to know it, but water law is no joke. After all, it really is the most valuable resource on the planet.
Water law in many states favors the “downstream user” and anyone who interferes with water flow to this person can be charged with creating an illegal diversion of water. In a nutshell, this is what made rain barrels illegal in Colorado until 2009.
The thinking was, if person A catches and uses water that would naturally flow to person B, then A is interfering with B’s water rights. Pretty wild, eh? And, here’s the important thing: You can still get in trouble for this today if you divert too much water.
The other reason states feel it’s necessary to interfere with the collection of free water that falls from the sky is that it may not always be portable, or safe to drink. The assumption is that if it hasn’t touched the ground yet then it’s clean, and for the most part that’s true.
The problem is that people are not always the most sanitary when it comes to collection. The rain barrel may be contaminated, or animals, insects, and debris may contaminate it over time and make it dangerous to drink. The question then becomes what is easier to regulate – clean collection methods or the collection itself.
Again, nowadays collection is deemed legal, within reason. But it still pays to be cautious about drinking rainwater that hasn’t been filtered or boiled… or both.
As rainwater collection is marginalized, it is illegal in some states like Colorado, where a principle known as prior appropriation is written into the state constitution to protect existing water rights. So, is collecting rainwater illegal? In that instance, yes.
This is a natural resource that the environment, quite literally, dumps on our heads. It is estimated that a 1000 square foot roof will collect 600 gallons of water from a 1-inch rain storm.
And yet, this precious liquid is a free resource that we can’t get rid of fast enough. What lands on the roofs, roads, and sidewalks in a city of thousands of buildings is promptly carried by gutters and then storm drains underground.
From there the runoff is dumped into the nearest body of water having gathered a myriad of pollutants along the way. What was originally a relatively clean source of water that could be repurposed for residential or commercial use is discarded as a waste product.
Is Collecting Rainwater Illegal?
Well, there you have it, if you are thinking of collecting rainwater either for your domestic or commercial use, you might think twice. Knowing the water laws in your state will help you legally to harvest rainwater.
What are your thoughts on collecting or wasting rainwater? Did you already know the scenarios in which the answer to “is collecting rainwater illegal” is “yes”?