Is It Illegal To Collect Rainwater?

Posted on by liljegrenlaw

Is Collecting Rainwater Legal Under California Law?

California is known for its beautiful weather and sunny skies. Unfortunately, it’s also known for droughts and water shortages. This has led to many restrictions on how California residents use their water, especially during droughts. As a result, many Californians are using rain barrels and cisterns to collect water during the rainy season. When the droughts come, the collected water can be used to keep your gardens green.

Many States Say It’s Illegal – California Does Not

Surprisingly, many states have made it illegal to collect rainwater, no matter how you intend to use it. As strange as it sounds, in some states you can actually get charged for collecting rainwater, even on your own land.

Thankfully, California isn’t one of them. In fact, California encourages residents to put out their rain barrels and collect water while they can. San Diego in particular offers incentives intended to encourage residents to capture rainwater. For every gallon of rain storage capacity you have on your property, the city will give you a 50 cent rebate (up to $200).

The Rainwater Capture Act of 2012 was amended to allow Californians to capture and use water for various purposes. Prior to the act, residents could only capture water with a permit from the State Water Resources Control. People who collected water without a permit could be penalized for essentially taking water that belonged to the state. The amendment made it possible for residents to collect water without a permit.

What Are the Benefits of Collecting Water?

Water can be collected in a number of ways, either from your rooftop or by redirecting your gutters. Collecting rain in this way is meant to capture water that would normally fall on rooftops and use it to nourish plants. This is in an effort to meet California’s goal of decreasing potable water demands 20% by the year 2020. Currently, water used for landscaping purposes makes up the bulk of California’s water usage.

In some areas of the state, up to 70% of water usage is for landscaping! By collecting rainwater that wouldn’t otherwise hit the ground, you can now keep your landscape looking beautiful without making a negative environmental impact.

How Can I Collect and Use Rainwater? What Are The Restrictions?

Rainwater collection is a fantastic way to safeguard yourself and your property against droughts, but there are some restrictions you should be aware of. For example, collecting water that’s already in a draining system or channel is illegal. Basically, this means you can’t collect water that is already (or about to be) put to use.

Rainwater can only be collected in ways that are beneficial to the environment by placing rain barrels in areas that prevent rain from reaching the soil. Secondly, the water you collect can’t be wasted or used for purposes considered wasteful or not beneficial.

Most of these restrictions are common sense. For example, you can’t use water to wash hardscapes, sidewalks, or driveways. Finally, rainwater can’t be used as drinking water. Other indoor uses are acceptable but require a permit through the city of San Diego. Residents experienced with California water restrictions should have no trouble abiding by the laws that restrict rainwater usage. The Rainwater Harvesting Guide is available to area citizens looking to learn the basics about rainwater collection.