Collecting Rainwater Seems Like A Great Idea,  But It's Sometimes Illegal To Do!

The federal government doesn't currently have any restrictions or laws about harvesting rainwater, leaving it up to the 50 states to decide their own policies. Nearly every state permits it to some degree, but the rules do change from one state to the next.

Many citizens and homeowners like harvesting rainwater for watering their yards and other applications, reducing the strain on water systems in their communities. However, you can't just put out a barrel and let it start filling up. Actually, in some states you can, but keep reading to find out if you currently live in one of them:

Legal States

The following states are known at the time of writing for their legalization of rainwater harvesting:




Harvesting rainwater is deemed to be a private property right in this state. As such, no regulations regarding rainwater harvesting are currently on the books.


The state government, at the time of writing, has no regulations or restrictions in place regarding the harvesting of rainwater.


No regulations or restrictions are currently in place.


The state government, at the time of writing, has no regulations or restrictions in place regarding the harvesting of rainwater.


Harvesting rainwater is generally deemed as legal across this state as well.

South Dakota

Harvesting rainwater is a fully legal activity anywhere in this state.


All citizens are allowed to harvest rainwater as they see fit.

West Virginia

Every property owner can harvest their rainwater.


The harvesting of rainwater is a legal right in this state.


Harvesting rainwater is legal to do.

Legal With Encouragement States

These states are known for allowing the legal harvesting of rainwater, along with government encouragement of such activities:




Harvesting rainwater is legal in this state. House Bill 2830 even permits municipalities the power to establish monetary funds for rainwater harvesting systems.


Harvesting rainwater is legal in this state without restrictions. Citizens of this state are also encouraged to participate in the activity.


Harvesting rainwater is legal in this state without any restrictions. The state government actively sponsors incentive programs in the hopes of encouraging residents to harvest their rainwater.


This state makes rainwater harvesting legal without any restrictions. Not only does the state government widely encourage the practice, but a number of municipalities also encourage this activity as well through things like rebate programs and tax incentives.


This island chain state has no restrictions on the harvesting of rainwater, with widespread government encouragement of the practice.


The state government, at the time of writing, has no regulations or restrictions in place regarding the harvesting of rainwater, which is widely encouraged.


This state has no regulations or restrictions about rainwater harvesting. A number of counties individually offer specific incentives for the collection of rainwater.


It's legal to harvest rainwater here, and the state encourages this activity.


Harvesting rainwater is legal in this state, with widespread encouragement in the activity.


The state government permits and encourages the harvesting of rainwater.


The act of rainwater harvesting is encouraged and legal.


Rainwater harvesting is fully legal and widely encouraged.


Harvesting rainwater is legal across the entire state. A number of universities in the state promote the practice actively.

New Hampshire

Harvesting rainwater is legal throughout the state and encouraged by the state government.

New Mexico

This state also allows legal rainwater harvesting, encouraging those who do not yet participate.

New York

The Empire State has legalized rainwater harvesting, not only encouraging it, but even teaching residents and citizens how to do it.

North Dakota

The act of harvesting rainwater isn't just fully legal, but also widely encouraged across the state.


Harvesting rainwater isn't just legal across this state, but the Water for 2060 Act started up grants used towards water conservation projects, with rainwater harvesting being included.


Harvesting rainwater is totally legal and widely encouraged.

Rhode Island

Not only is it legal to harvest rainwater, but citizens are offered incentives for doing so. House Bill 7070 offers tax credits for up to 10 percent of the construction or installation of cisterns to any citizens or businesses that do so.

South Carolina

The Palmetto State legalizes rainwater harvesting and encourages citizens to do so.


The concept of harvesting rainwater has come up more than once in the state's legal code. State code 32.1-248.2 grants the state government the power to promote using rainwater in order to reduce consumption of fresh water, reduce demands on water infrastructure, and promote conservation. Furthermore, Virginia's Senate Bill 1416 established income tax credits for those citizens who choose to install systems that harvest rainwater.

States With Unique Situations:

A handful of states don't fall neatly into the broader categories listed above. In such states, consulting local laws or county and state governments is strongly encouraged in order to stay in compliance with rules and laws at the time:




​This state considers rainwater a primary water source, so harvesting it is widely encouraged. However, harvesting groundwater can involve strict regulations. The distinction is how the water gets captured. Per the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, you must have a water right if you want to use water from a particular body of water. This involves a fee and application, unless you received a water right transfer via the prior property owner.


This state does permit rainwater harvesting, but there are a few restrictions. Water must only be collected for non-potable uses, and the system has to be designed specifically by a properly licensed professional engineer. Also, the system must use proper cross-connection safeguards and be compliant with the state plumbing code.


2012 legislation opened the doors to commercial, residential, and governmental landowners installing, operating, and maintaining rainwater capture systems, if used for certain applications. Roof rainwater harvesting requires no state board permit, but license is necessary for gathering up rainwater for landscaping purposes. Further permits and contracts are necessary for harvesting rainwater for water supplies, such as ponds, fountains, hot tubs, and swimming pools.


This state once had very stringent regulations regarding harvesting rainwater. However, the state government has loosened up the rules, based on studies and research. Now, residential property owners are allowed to catch their rain up to as much as two barrels worth, which is roughly 110 gallons. That water can only get used for non-potable purposes on the same property, and for outdoor applications only, like gardening or irrigation.


The Peach State allows rainwater harvesting, but the water collected can only be used in outdoor applications. This is regulated and monitored closely by the Environmental Protection Division and Department of Natural Resources.


Residents of this state can collect rainwater and even diffused surface waters that are on their property, but only as long as two conditions are satisfied. First, it can not impinge on the existing water rights of any other properties or legal entities. Second, the rainwater collected can not have entered into natural waterways.


This state regulates harvesting rainwater very tightly. Any harvesting systems have to be constructed in compliance with the state's plumbing code, and any rainwater collected can only be put towards non-potable applications.


This state legalizes rainwater harvesting without a permit, so long as the water is applied domestically for watering lawns, gardens, or livestock pasture, or used in a household. Kansas residents are entitled to both surface and groundwater within the state for domestic purposes up to two acres, including livestock. The Kansas Department of Agriculture helps residents understand the boundaries of their rights in this regard.


Collecting rainwater is perfectly legal, but state statutes mandate covers for cisterns and other large collection tanks. There is also a law on the books preventing you from distributing polluted water that is manufactured and sold to others, including beverages and ice.

New Jersey

The Garden State legalizes harvesting rainwater. A reward and rebate program is operated by the Department of Environmental Protection to encourage participation among property owners, but it only applies to specifically eligible techniques.


Rainwater harvesting was widely illegal in this state until 2017, when the legislation changed. Collecting rainwater is now generally permissible for domestic use in non-potable applications.

North Carolina

The Tar Heel State has two laws regulating rainwater harvesting, which is legal but with rules and restrictions. Rainwater recycling systems are generally allowed to collect roof water, as well as from some other catchments. Reservoirs must meet government approval, as they must meet certain colors and requirements regarding their disinfection, filter, and strainer.


Harvesting water is legal here for applications potable and non-potable alike, so long as any water system is only providing drinking water for two dozen people or less. The system is still regulated under the authority of the state health department.


Rainwater harvesting is legal for rooftop systems. Collecting public water is a far more complicated matter, unless you already have a permit for water rights.


The Volunteer State permits harvesting rainwater since green infrastructure practices were permitted via Senate Bill 2417 and House Bill 1850.


This state legalizes harvesting rainwater generally, but with regulations. Specific rules for industrial, commercial, and residential facilities apply to each respective category. Rainwater harvesting systems must generally be approved by the state government, with proper notice to municipal governments. Safety and engineering standards are common hurdles to clear as well.


If you own or lease land, you can harvest rainwater on that property. Unregistered individuals can collect up to 200 gallons using no more than a pair of containers, whereas registered parties can store up to 2,500 gallons.


Permits used to be necessary for gathering rooftop water, but this policy was revoked. Still, regulations are strict in this state. Further complicating matters is that rainwater harvesting regulations often change at a county level, so municipal-level permits might be necessary.