Rainwater Harvesting is exploding and so are the cities, states and other entities involvement with it. Below is a state by state listing of past and current efforts dealing with rainwater and greywater.
The only state with major restrictions today is Colorado. Every other state allows rainwater capture; although some require permitting or registration.
This list is changing monthly. If you find something that needs to be added to this listing, please email it to me and I will add it and add a mention of it on the front page.
Still there is much confusion about what harvested rainwater really is. Some US jurisdictions consider it reclaimed water and others refer to it as “graywater.” Actually it is neither. Definitions from the Universal Plumbing Code (UPC) are below.
With the growth of rainwater harvesting there is a definite need for leadership and direction. Conflicting code and certifications will only hamper growth and adoption. The good news, as is visible below in the state-by-state listing; states, counties and cities are getting involved. The bad news lots of uncoordinated activities and directions. Hopefully ARCSA will bring some order to this area and thereby hasten growth in the industry.
Black Water is toilet waste.
Graywater is untreated waste water that has not come in contact with toilet waste. Graywater includes used water from bathtubs, showers, lavatories and water from clothes washing machines. It does not include waste water from kitchen sinks or dishwashers in most definitions. Reclaimed Water is water which, as a result of tertiary treatment of domestic waste water by a public agency, is suitable for a controlled use. The controlled use can be the supply of reclaimed water to water closets, urinals and trap seal primers for floor drains and floor sinks. In areas under the jurisdiction of the UPC this system is usually called a “purple pipe” system because the reclaimed water is conveyed in pipe that is purple in color.
Harvested Rainwater is storm water that is conveyed from a building roof, stored in a cistern and disinfected and filtered before being used for toilet flushing. It can also be used for landscape irrigation.
Below is a list of currently known regulations. If you find updated or new regulations, please send them to Doug at HarvestH2o.com so others will benefit from your findirig.
Currently there is no US agency that has focus on Rainwater Harvesting and states are rapidly doing there own thing. Below is a list of the actions by individual states. Over time the federal government will get more and more involved as water conflicts and shortages continue to occur.
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) provides research for the development and advancement of healthy, durable and economically sound shelters for Alaskans. CCHRC provide research and publishes information on sustainable building practices in Alaska.
The City of Tucson, Arizona, has instituted requirements for water harvesting in its land use code as a means of providing supplemental water for on-site irrigation.
Per the city's website, water harvesting is the practice of capturing and collecting runoff from storms and using the "harvested" stormwater to provide supplemental water for landscape plants. Water harvesting has numerous benefits. Water harvesting reduces the amount of stormwater flowing in streets or onto adjacent properties, increases the quantity and quality of the water supply for landscape plants, and helps keep potential stormwater pollutants out of our streets, watercourses and ultimately, the groundwater. Water harvesting appropriately designed and monitored, can reduce the amount of potable water used for irrigation, saving a development money and reducing the demand on the City's potable water delivery system.
The Water Harvesting Guidance Manual was developed in accordance with Mayor and Council direction. On October 18, 2005, the Mayor and Council (M&C) passed an Ordinance supporting the Water Harvesting Guidance Manual for use by developers in planning a strategy to implement water harvesting for new developments, including City projects.
The City of Tucson is considering mandanting greywater stubouts in all new home construction, and mandating that all properties supply a percent of water for landscape watering through rainwater.
Statutes: No state statutes or regulations.
Taxes: Credit for plumbing stubouts and water conservation in place through tax year 2011. Maxiumum resident credit $1,200. Also credits for businesses covered in tax statue. The tax credit used to only give the credit to greywater systems, but now that Technical correction (HB 2103) was passed and becomes law effective September 26, 2008, the tax credit will also apply to rainwater harvesting systems. Once it takes effect, it will be retroactive to January 1, 2007.
On Feb. 16, 2016, representatives from several local, environmentally-minded organizations, government agencies and non-profits gathered at the Pico Branch Library to present a new roadmap that will give municipalities, businesses and homeowners clear guidelines on the use of non-potable water indoors and outside. The Los Angeles Department of Public Health, City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, City of Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment, TreePeople, Heal the Bay, and the Natural Resources Defense Council created these voluntary guidelines, known as Matrix 2.0, which officials said are the first of their kind for the county, and possibly even the state of California.
The Calfornia Rainwater Capture Act of 2011, which would authorize a landowner to install, maintain, and operate, on the landowner's property, a rainwater capture system meeting specified requirements. This bill would additionally 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, as defined, if the system is used exclusively for landscape irrigation. The bill would authorize a landscape contractor holding a specified classification to design and install all exterior components of a rainwater capture system that are not a part of, or attached to, a structure. The bill is also known as AB 275
Los Angeles City Council Unanimously Passes Low Impact Development Ordinance - The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously passed a landmark Low Impact Development Ordinance (LID). Developed by the Bureau of Sanitation in collaboration with community members, environmental organizations, business groups and the building industry, LID calls for development and redevelopment projects to mitigate runoff in a manner that captures rainwater at its source, while utilizing natural resources including rain barrels, permeable pavement, rainwater storage tanks, infiltration swales or curb bumpouts to contain water. Reports have shown that LID is the most effective and cost-efficient means of managing stormwater and abating water pollution. LID practices are designed to address runoff and pollution at the source. Other low impact development benefits include water conservation, groundwater recharge and greening communities.
Two bills in 2009 session were passed supporting Rainwater Harvesting.
AB 300 - This bill ensures that homebuilders, who employ voluntary water demand measures, receive reasonable credit for their savings in connection with water-demand assessments and verifications done during the entitlement process. In doing so, AB 300 promotes adoption of water conservation approaches that will reduce California’s water consumption at no cost to the state. >> more
AB 1408 - This bill ensures that water conservation measures continue when the property is sold. Water suppliers must be able to count on water savings long-term. Modeled on a 700-home development in Contra Costa County, the bill also aims to have total water used after new development be equal to or less than total water used before the project. >> more
In 2007 two bills passed and were signed that compell local water districts to create water conservation programs.
AB 1420 - Beginning January 1, 2009, the terms of, and eligibility for, a water management grant or loan made to an urban water supplier and awarded or administered by the department, state board, or California Bay-Delta Authority or its successor agency shall be conditioned on the implementation of the water demand management measures...
AB 1560 - This bill would authorize the department to propose standards related to voluntary best practice and mandatory requirements related to environmentally preferable water using devices and measures...
AB 1750 defines the licensing criteria for landscapers to be able to install rainwater harvesting systems for irrigation purposes and specifically calls out that RWH does not require a water right.
Historically, Colorado's 120 year old water law doesn't specifically talk about buckets or cisterns, but the principle of prior appropriation applies. That means water, including whatever falls from the sky and off your roof, must be allowed to flow downstream to those who have a legal right to use it. "When it's in the sky it's fine. But as soon it hits the ground, or on the way to the ground, that's where it kind of changes a little," said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress.
However, Colorado is taking baby steps towards legalizing rainwater collection. Senate Bill 80 was signed by the Governor on 4/22/09 and becomes law on July 1, 2009. It allows rural catchment (Senate Bill 80), but still has some hurdles for those that want to move forward. (See bill below).
Colorado approves rainwater collection, limiting it to two rainbarrels. The last state outlawing rainwater harvesting is inching towards the 21st century.
Colorado approves graywater statue giving local jurisdiction ability to implement graywater codes locally.
Florida is getting hot. Florida Keys is offering a rebate and there are several bills that could dramatically impact rainwater harvesting in FL.
Additionally, Tampa Bay Water has been working with the University of South Florida (Engineering), the University of Florida Environmental Law Institute, and the Florida Irrigation Society (mostly irrigation needs assessment) to develop a Standardized (or turn-key) Rainwater Harvesting Presentation designed to be used by the statewide Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) Program, local and regional governments.
The intent is to resolve outstanding issues precluding local officials from presenting long-term quantifiable changes in the use of potable water for irrigation purposes through the use of cisterns. In addition, the workshop development structure will provide both directions on how to; give workshops, how to link with parties interested in sponsoring them (like the Florida Irrigation Society, ARCSA, and there has been some interest from the Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors- PHCC), background technical information and where to get more information, reviews of applicable codes and standards nationwide, any conflict of interest issues associated with public officials promoting the materials, and potential liability issues raised by local governments and the FYN program.
Rainwater harvesting is a growth business in Hawaii due to population growth and the lack of infrastructure. Many outlining areas do not have buried water lines and consequently, no access to city water. Drilling a well is prohibitively expensive. Hauling water or rainwater harvesting are the only options to many rural areas.
Statutes: Passed in March 2008, a resolution requesting each county study the feasibility of launching a water conservation program that includes rainwater harvesting for non-potable water use.
Statutes:SB2549 amends the Illinois Plumbing License Law. Provides that, if a unit of local government regulates rainwater harvesting systems, then those reclaimed water systems must meet specific requirements. The Department
shall promulgate and publish a minimum code of standards for rainwater harvesting collection systems and rainwater harvesting distribution systems by January 1, 2010.
SB2549 called Rainwater Harvesting for Non-Potable Uses, is co-sponsored by state Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) and state Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) and if passed would require the Illinois Department of Public Health to develop standards for rainwater capture, ensuring that rainwater could not enter the public water supply. (Current Status – Passed Senate; - House – Rules Committee)
In New Mexico all water rights are appropriated by priority - first in time, first in line.
In 1907, a Territorial Water Code was created which enables water rights to be be severed from the land. The State Engineer's duty is to administer water rights throughout the state.
New Mexico has no laws or statutes dealing with the legal ownership of rainwater.
Because the state relies on prior appropriate, all water rights are already accounted for; consequently, all developers must acquire existing rights before they can proceed. This is leading to developers and builders to integrate water conservation into all new developments and in some cases the incorporation of rainwater harvesting systems for outside watering purposes. These features directly reduce the amount of water that must be acquired for a development.
Santa Fe county has enacted restrictions on developers requiring legal acquisiton of water rights, prior to approving new developments.
Statutes: There are no state government requirements for outdoor use of rainwater (3/08). However, indoor rainwater use must meet the standards for reclaimed water and will require a variance if used residentially.
Regulations apply to gray water systems and it is regulated by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). Rainwater does not fall under the definition of gray water in the state of New Mexico. According to the NMED website a NMED permit is not required on gray water system on systems less than 250 gallons per day for private residential systems as long as done in accordance with requirements outlined in the NMED Gray Water Irrigation Guide.
Taxes: Tax credit for NEW Green Buildings, which could include rainwater harvesting. For Build Green New Mexico “Gold level”, the maximum possible credit is $11,000.00 per house.
NC Adopts Code Council IgCC Rainwater Harvest Provisions. Understanding the need for greater water conservation, the North Carolina Building Code Council recently voted to adopt an appendix to the North Carolina Plumbing Code to include an amended version of the Rainwater Collection and Distribution Systems (Section 707) of the International Green Construction Code Public Version 1.0 (IgCC), developed by the International Code Council and its cooperating sponsors. The IgCC’s comprehensive section on rainwater harvest will dramatically enhance the North Carolina Plumbing Code (the International Plumbing Code with North Carolina amendments) already in use throughout the state.
The North Carolina Department of Enviornment and Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water has implement Community Conservation Assistance Program. The conservation district has created a voluntary, incentive-based program designed to improve water quality through the installation of various best management practices (BMPs) on urban, suburban and rural lands, not directly involved in agricultural production. CCAP consists of educational, technical and financial assistance provided to landowners by local soil and water conservation districts.
Under this program the landowner may be reimbursed up to 75 percent of the pre-established average cost of the BMP. Included in this program are Rainwater Harvesting Systems.
Statutes: NC 1385, currently under consideration, provides a tax credit for installation of a cistern, and prohibits that cities can not prohibit rainwater recovery systems.
The State of Ohio has the most extensive rules on rainwater harvesting in the United States, with code on cistern size and material, manhole openings, outlet drains, overflow pipes, fittings, couplings, and even roof washers. Ohio’s rules also address disinfection of private water systems (Ohio, 2004).
Cisterns and stored water storage tanks must have a smooth interior surface and concrete tanks must be constructed in accordance with ASTM C913, Standard Specification for Precast Concrete Water and Wastewater Structures. Plastic and fiberglass tank materials and all joints, connections, and sealant must meet NSF/ANSI Standard 61, Drinking Water System Components.
Statutes: Regulated by the Ohio Department of Health under Sections 3701.344 to 3701.347 of the Ohio Revised Code and Chapter 3701-28 of the Ohio Administrative Code. Private Water Systems are potable water wells, ponds, springs, cisterns and hauled water storage tanks that provide drinking water to fewer than 25 people, less than sixty days out of the year, and have less than 15 service connections. These would include single water supplies that serve homes, small businesses, small churches, small mobile home parks or communities with fewer than 25 residents.
You will also need to get a permit from the local health department.
In Oregon, only roof surfaces may be used for harvesting rainwater.
The City of Portland, Oregon, requires a minimum cistern capacity of 1,500 gallons capable of being filled with harvested rainwater or municipal water, with a reduced pressure backflow device and an air gap protecting the municipal supply from cross-connectio.
Statutes: Oregon's New 'Reach Code' Utilizes IAPMO's Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement. The "Reach Code," established in Senate Bill 79 (2009), requires the State of Oregon Building Codes Division to adopt a code encompassing construction methods and technology designed to increase energy and water efficiency over the mandatory codes for builders that choose to incorporate them. Chapter 7 of the code, "Water Resource Conservation and Efficiency," is based upon the 2010 IAPMO Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement, a tool designed to be used as an overlay to any building code to provide code officials with comprehensive, progressive and enforceable green provisions toward sustainable construction practices.
Rainwater harvesting is growing quickly around the entire state. Texas has a very active rainwater organization that is vigorously promoting the technology and working with the legislature to ensure it is both protected and promoted.
Additionally, Texas Water Development Board sponsors the Texas Rain Catcher Award, to promote the technology, educate the public, and to recognize excellence in the application of rainwater harvesting systems in Texas.
Statutes: A number of bills are in front of the 2011 legislature.
HB 3391 is a general rainwater bill that allows sole use of rainwater for developments and insures rainwater is viewed as a viable source of water.
HB 3327 allows indoor potable use of rainwater for public dwellings connected to a public water supply. It's companion bill in the Senate is SB 1073.
HB 645, passed by the 78th Legislature in 2003, prevents homeowners associations from banning outdoor water-conserving measures such as composting, water-efficient landscapes, drip irrigation, and rainwater harvesting installations. The legislation allows homeowners associations to require screening or shielding to obscure view of the tanks.
Taxes: No state income tax, so no state credit available; although, some counties do offer rebates and home owner tax credits. Additionally, there is a state sales tax exemption on the purchasing of rainwater harvesting equipment.
Statutes: Water is owned by the state. However the state passed Senate Bill 32 in 2010 which permits rainwater catchment for maximum capacity of no more than 2,500 gallons. There are several other restrictions, but the state engineer must grant the permit if all the conditions are met. No registration required for less than 200 gallons, see registration link below.
In Vermont, there is no known rainwater law; however, starting Sept. 1, 2009 commercial enterprises that withdraw 20,0000 gallons a day or more to file a report with the state , and to obtain a permit for withdrawal of more than 57,000 gallons effective July 2010. Most farming operations will be exempt.
A comprehensive guide to examining, designing and maintaining rainwater harvesting systems to abate stormwater runoff has been published for Virginia by the Carell Brand Center in 2007.
The Virginia Stormwater Management Act states that localities covered under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act within the Tidewater area are required to alopt a local stormwater management program, while any localities located outside this area may voluntarily adopt a local stormwater management program.
Rainwater harvesting is promoted as one solution to this problem in the Virginia Rainwater Harvesting Manual 2007. In 2001, Virginia passed a Senate bill 1416 which gave income tax credit to individuals and corporations that installed rainwater systems. It was not funded, and active efforts are underway to put in place future tax credits.
Statutes: No statutes or laws regulating rainwater currently known to be in place.
Statutes: Passed the law RCW 36.89.080 that mandates the reduction in stormwater rates of at least 10% for installation of rainwater harvesting systems.
The rate a county may charge under this section for storm water control facilities 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 shall be properly sized to utilize the available roof surface of the building. The jurisdiction shall consider rate reductions in excess of ten percent dependent upon the amount of rainwater harvested.
The Department of Ecology is amending WAC 173-152-050 to specifically authorize priority permit processing for rainwater collection systems that do not fall under the permit exemption, and creating a streamlined rainwater collection permit that references RCW 90.03.250 and combines the reservoir and secondary use permits. This permit will be available for both individuals and for regional entities (similar to the already issued Seattle regional permit and the San Juan Island-wide permits currently in process).
The city of Seattle allows rainwater harvesting and requires a permit. But the permit only applies to the parts of the city served by the combined and partially separated basins; those outside those areas cannot get "coverage" through the city's permit. The process for obtaining a permit is still in process.
The state updated it's Greywater code (Chapter 246-274 WAC) July 2021 to address subsurface graywater systems. The local jurisdictions have 3 years to implement these new rules.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bermuda, and other Caribbean islands (islands without large reservoirs or adequate groundwater reserves), all new construction and even building expansion must have a provision for a self-sustaining water supply system, either a well or or a rainwater collection area and cistern. The rules for private water systems in the Virgin Islands state that new cisterns must have a minimum capacity of 2,500 gallons per dwelling (Virgin Islands Code, Title 29, Public Planning and Development). The U.S. Virgin Islands specifies that cisterns for hotels or multi-family dwellings have a minimum capacity of 10 gallons per square foot of roof area for buildings of one story, and 15 gallons per square foot of roof area for multi-story buildings, although the requirement is waived for buildings with access to centralized potable water systems.