Record droughts and water-supply worries have served as catalysts for state legislatures to consider legislation legalizing the catchment and use of rainwater for use in households and for lawns.
There has been increased interest over the past five years in legislation allowing, defining, and clarifying when rainwater harvesting can occur. Rainwater harvesting is the act of utilizing a collection system to use rainwater for outdoor uses, plumbing, and, in some cases, consumption. States have also passed legislation encouraging the use of Graywater. Graywater refers to the reuse of water drained from baths, showers, washing machines, and sinks (household wastewater excluding toilet wastes) for irrigation and other water conservation applications.
States must ensure water-quality standards and public health concerns are met. In some states, such as Colorado, previous water law stated that all precipitation belonged to existing water-rights owners, and that rain needed to flow to join its rightful water drainage. However, a 2007 study conducted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Douglas County determined that only 3 percent of rain actually reached a stream or the ground. Colorado followed-up by enacting two pieces of legislation, one allowing certain types of well owners to use rainwater and one authorizing pilot development projects.
Texas and Ohio are among states that have devoted a considerable amount of attention to this issue, and have numerous enacted laws regulating the practice of rainwater harvesting. Texas offers a sales tax exemption on the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment. Both Texas and Ohio allow the practice even for potable purposes. Oklahoma passed the Water for 2060 Act in 2012, to promote pilot projects for rainwater and graywater use among other water saving techniques.
Map of Rainwater Harvesting Laws
State Rainwater Harvesting and Graywater Laws and Programs
Arizona | Colorado | Illinois | North Carolina | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Rhode Island | Texas | Utah | Virginia |Washington | U.S. Virgin Islands
Arizona had a tax credit for water conservation systems that included collection of rainwater; however, the credit expired on Jan. 1, 2012. The credit is equal to 25 percent of the cost of the system. The maximum credit in a taxable year could not exceed $1,000. From 2007 to 2010, over $360,000 was credited to homeowners that purchased a water conservation system. Arizona Revised Statutes §43-1090.01
AZ H 2363 (2012) – Established a joint legislative study committee on macro-harvested water. The committee shall study, analyze and evaluate issues arising from the collection and recovery of macro-harvested water, including reviewing scientific data on surface water, rainwater harvesting, methodology costs and benefits, potential impacts on water rights, downstream users, and potential aquifer management issues and groundwater management issues.
AZ H 2830 – This bill allows the governing body of a city or town to establish an energy and water savings account that consists of a designated pool of capital investment monies to fund energy or water savings projects in public facilities, including rainwater harvesting systems. (Arizona Revised Statutes §9-499.16)
NEW CO HB 1044 empowers any local city, county, or city and county to pass a resolution that will allow the use of graywater for beneficial uses. Permitted sources of graywater include: bathroom and laundry sinks, dishwashers, bathtubs, showers and laundry machines. Graywater may not be collected from: toilets, urinals, kitchen sinks, dishwashers, or non-laundry utility sinks.
Prior to adopting a resolution allowing graywater, the county or municipal governing body is encouraged to consult with the local board of health, local health agencies, and wastewater service providers concerning the use of graywater and proper installation and operation of graywater works. Further, graywater must be used in accordance with all contracts, decrees, and well permits that govern the use of groundwater, and the Colorado Ground Water Commission may promulgate standards and requirements to encourage the use of graywater and protect public health and water quality. Under the bill, any water user that is supplied by a municipal or industrial water provider, or any person withdrawing water from a small capacity well may use graywater and install a graywater treatment work. Additionally, the use of graywater is limited to the “confines of the operation that generates the graywater.”
Colorado had some of the nation’s strictest rainwater harvest laws, essentially prohibiting the practice. 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
- Colorado Division of Water Resources outlined information on SB 80
- Colorado Legislative Council Issue Brief on SB 80 and HB 1129 and Rainwater Harvesting in Colorado
- Criteria and guidelines for pilot projects
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
IL H 991 of 2011 amended the Homeowners’ Solar Rights Act. It requires that within 120 days after a homeowners’ association, common interest community association, or condominium unit owners’ association receives a request for a policy statement or an application from an association member, the association shall adopt an energy policy statement regarding: (i) the location, design, and architectural requirements of solar energy systems; and (ii) whether a wind energy collection, rain water collection, or composting system is allowed, and, if so, the location, design, and architectural requirements of those systems. Illinois Revised Statutes Chapter 765 § 165/20
NC H 609 of 2011 directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to provide statewide outreach and technical assistance regarding water efficiency, which shall include the development of best management practices for community water efficiency and conservation. This shall include employing water reuse practices that include harvesting rainwater and using grey water. North Carolina General Statutes § Session Law 143-355
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 §3701.344 and Ohio Revised Code §3701.346
OK HB 3055 of 2012 created the “Water for 2060 Act.” The bill initiates grants for pilot programs. The pilot projects shall be innovative programs that will serve as models for other communities in the state. Pilot projects may include, but are not limited to, community conservation demonstration projects, water use accounting programs, retrofit projects, school education projects, Xeriscape demonstration gardens, projects which promote efficiency, recycling and reuse of water, and information campaigns on capturing and using harvested rainwater and gray water.
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.
- Potable Alternate Method
- Non-Potable Alternate Method
- Oregon Smart Guide – Rainwater Harvesting
RI HB 7070 of 2012 created a tax credit for the installation of cisterns to collect rainwater. Any individual or business that installs a cistern on their property to collect rainwater for use in their home or business shall be entitled to a state income tax credit of ten percent (10%) of the cost of installing the cistern not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000). Each entity shall be allowed only one tax credit over the life of the cistern unless they are replacing an existing cistern with a larger cistern and have not received the maximum tax credit of one thousand dollars ($1,000). A cistern is defined as a container holding fifty (50) or more gallons of diverted rainwater or snow melt, either above or below ground.
Texas HB 3391 of 2011 is one of the most far-reaching and comprehensive pieces of legislation regarding rainwater harvesting in recent years. Among its provisions:
- Allows financial institutions to consider making loans for developments that will use harvested rainwater as the sole source of water supply.
- Requires rainwater harvesting system technology for potable and nonpotable indoor use and landscape watering be incorporated into the design and construction of each new state building with a roof measuring at least 50,000 square feet that is located in an area of the state in which the average annual rainfall is at least 20 inches.
- Requires the development of rules regarding the installation and maintenance of rainwater harvesting systems that are used for indoor potable purposes and connected to a public water supply system, prior to this bill it could only be used for nonpotable purposes. The rules must include criteria to ensure that safe drinking water standards are met and the water does not come in contact with the public water supply at a location off of the property.
- Requires a person who intends to connect a rainwater harvesting system to a public water supply system for potable purposes to give written notice to the municipality or the owner or operator of the public water supply system. A municipality or public water supply system may not be held liable for any adverse health effects allegedly caused by the consumption of water collected by a rainwater harvesting system that is connected to a public water supply system and is used for potable purposes if the municipality or the public water supply system is in compliance with the sanitary standards for drinking water.
- Encourages each municipality and county to promote rainwater harvesting at residential, commercial, and industrial facilities through incentives such as the provision at a discount of rain barrels or rebates for water storage facilities. Requires the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to ensure that training on rainwater harvesting is available for the members of the permitting staffs of municipalities and counties at least quarterly. School districts are strongly encouraged to implement rainwater harvesting systems.
- Prohibits a municipality or county from denying a building permit solely because the facility will implement rainwater harvesting.
Other Texas Statutes
Texas Health and Safety Code §341.042 outlines standards for harvested rainwater. Includes health and safety standards for treatment and collection methods for harvested rainwater intended for drinking, cooking, or bathing.
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 its2006 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.
Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-248.2 – Requires the development of rainwater harvesting and graywater guidelines to ease demands on public treatment works and water supply systems and promote conservation.
Virginia Rainwater Harvesting and Use Guidelines
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 Ordinancereduces 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
2012 Notable Rainwater Harvesting Legislation
CA AB 1750 (Pending: To Senate Committees on Natural Resources and Water and Rules.)
Would enact the Rainwater Capture Act of 2012. Would authorize residential, commercial and governmental landowners to install, maintain, and operate rain barrel systems and rainwater capture systems for specified purposes, provided that the systems comply with specified requirements. Would authorize a landscape contractor working within the classification of his or her license to enter into a prime contract for the construction of a rainwater capture system if the system is used exclusively for landscape irrigation.
CA AB 2398 (Pending: In Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water: Held in committee.)
Would enact the Water Recycling Act of 2012. Would establish a statewide goal to recycle specified amounts of water by specified calendar years. Would require the adoption of a drinking water criteria for groundwater recharge project utilizing recycled water and the development and adoption of drinking water criteria for advanced treated purified water for raw water augmentation projects. Establish a related research fund. Relates to permits and permit fees for raw water augmentation projects. Relates to inspections.
IL HB 1585 (Pending: Referred to House Committee on Rules.)
Would provide that “plumbing” includes rainwater harvesting distribution systems, but does not include any rainwater harvesting distribution system or rainwater harvesting collection system unless otherwise required by the Illinois Plumbing Code.
NJ AB 2890 (Pending: To Assembly Committee on Environment and Solid Waste.)
Water Conserving Plants Purchase Tax Deduction – Would provide for a personal income tax deduction for the purchase of certain water conserving plants and items: WaterWise plants and landscaping items intended to reduce water usage, including, but not limited to: drought resistant plants that last for more than one year; kits or devices specifically designed for generating compost; grey-water recovery systems where the effluent is used for watering plants; rainwater recovery and storage devices where they are used for watering plants; rain sensors for irrigation systems; and, underground drip irrigation systems.
NJ AB 2890 (Pending: To Assembly Committee on Environment and Solid Waste.)
Rainwater Capture and Water Conservation – This bill would establish several incentives for installation and operation of a rainwater capture system and prohibiting any fees or taxation related to the purchase, installation and use of these systems.
NY AB 6490 (Pending: Amended in Assembly Committee on Real Property Taxation.)
Would create a tax exemption program for commercial and residential real property owners who purchase or install systems for rainwater harvesting, which a municipality within Westchester or Putnam county could adopt by resolution.
North CarolinaNC HB 282 (Failed: Adjourned.)
Would provide that homeowners associations may not prohibit the installation of certain water and energy efficiency improvements by homeowners. Water efficiency improvement. – Rain gardens, cisterns, rain barrels, and other devices or landscaping installations intended to capture, collect, or store rainwater or to reduce the need for irrigation.
NC SB 427/ NC HB 787 (Failed: Adjourned.)
Would improve the security of North Carolina’s water resources. Employing water reuse practices that include harvesting rainwater and using grey water.
c WA HB 1025 (Failed: Adjourned.)
The rate a county may charge a school district under this section for storm water control facilities would be reduced by a minimum of ten percent for any new or remodeled commercial building that utilizes a permissive rainwater harvesting system. Rainwater harvesting systems would be properly sized to utilize the available roof surface of the building. The jurisdiction would consider rate reductions in excess of ten percent dependent upon the amount of rainwater harvested.
WA SB 5447/ WA HB 1746 (Failed: Adjourned.)
Related to utility rates and charges for unoccupied mobile home lots in manufactured housing communities: The rate a city or town may charge under this section for storm or surface water sewer systems or the portion of the rate allocable to the storm or surface water sewer system of combined sanitary sewage and storm or surface water sewer systems shall be reduced by a minimum of ten percent for any new or remodeled commercial building that utilizes a permissive rainwater harvesting system. Rainwater harvesting systems would be properly sized to utilize the available roof surface of the building. The jurisdiction would consider rate reductions in excess of ten percent dependent upon the amount of rainwater harvested.
WI AB 737 (Failed to Pass.)
This bill would require DSPS to promulgate rules that establish standards for the installation of graywater and rainwater systems and that authorize the use of graywater and rainwater within the building, or on the property surrounding the building, from which the graywater was generated or the rainwater was collected.