In October 2022, rapper Kanye West appeared on the Drink Champs podcast and discussed a number of controversial topics that prompted the full video to later be removed from YouTube.
Several VERIFY viewers emailed us to ask if West was right. After a series of powerful storms brought large amounts of rain to the West Coast, people online also wondered if individuals could collect and use that water, using home systems like rain barrels.
Is there a federal law banning people from collecting rainwater?
No, there is no federal law banning rainwater collection. States make their own laws on whether and how individuals can collect rainwater.
WHAT WE FOUND
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, rainwater collection is regulated by individual states. Some states have restrictions on how water is collected and what it can be used for. Others encourage individuals to collect it and even offer incentives like tax rebates.
The Farmer’s Almanac says the most common method of collecting rainwater is by placing rain barrels at the base downspouts to collect rainwater from gutters when it rains. Some systems for collection can be more elaborate with a series of pipes connected to a tank or cistern hooked to a pump for redistribution.
According to Fresh Water Systems, a water treatment company based in Southern California, “without first passing through a robust filtration system, rainwater is not safe to drink.” When rainwater falls from your rooftop, it can pick up contaminants. Depending on the pollution in the region, rainwater can also pick up chemicals that can be harmful to your health.
Some states restrict rainwater collection for reasons including water quality issues as well as protecting water available to farmland.
Nevada and Colorado, according to the Energy Department, have some of the most restrictive rules when it comes to rainwater collection and use. In Nevada, residents are only allowed to collect rainwater from a single-family roof for non-potable, domestic use.
In Colorado, rain can only be collected from rooftops. A maximum of 110 gallons can be stored, and the precipitation can only be used for outdoor purposes such as lawn irrigation and gardening.
In Oregon, water collection is regulated by the state Water Resources Department. There rainwater can be used for indoor or outdoor use, as long as the water used for drinking has a proper filtration system.
In Arkansas, state law says water can only be used for non-potable purposes, and the collection system has to be designed by a licensed engineer and must comply with state plumbing codes. There are tax credits available in Arkansas for eligible conservation projects.
California law says water can be collected from a rooftop using rain barrels without a permit, but if you want to set up an official collection or irrigation system, it may require a permit.
Some states or cities actually encourage citizens to collect rainwater by offering incentives.
In Arizona, the state offers a tax credit for collecting rainwater, but that water can only be used for agricultural purposes. There are individual credits that are provided by cities in Arizona, too. For example, in Tucson, residents can be eligible for a rebate of up to $2,000 if they follow the guidelines laid out by the city.
Cities that offer incentives include Sacramento, Calif., where residents can get a rebate of up to $150 for rain barrels. Santa Monica, Calif. has rebates of up to $2,000 depending on the size of the water barrel or cistern. Washington, D.C. offers rebates of up to $1,000 for rain barrels.
These are all the states that have restrictions on water collection:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
These states have no restrictions on water collection:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia