Collecting rainwater on the surface seems like something that we should be able to do with no regulations or rules.
In fact, it seems reasonable that doing so would put less strain on a city’s water utilities that purify and then pump water into our homes.
And in case of an emergency where that water that is piped into our homes has been contaminated, having stored rain water could be a real benefit.
But just like so many other things in our lives – rainwater collection can land you in some hot water. But it depends upon how you do it and where you live.
Why Is Collecting RainWater Illegal In Some States
There is an actual theory behind the regulation of rainwater harvesting that is pretty simple.
The theory is that the water that falls from our skies is actually public property. By collecting rainwater you are diminishing the amounts that are restoring the water table or going into streams and reservoirs in your area.
This makes rainwater public and not private property that you can store for later use.
With drought conditions in many parts of the country the rules that regulate rainwater collection are only going to get more complicated.
Many people think that water and it’s scarcity are going to become a major issue in the future and make water the new oil as far as who has it and who gets it and who has the rights to use it.
In areas where water is the scarcest who can be collecting rainwater is likely to become more of an issue.
That makes sense in a way. Because when you have a scarce resource you don’t want it to be wasted.
But the opposite is also true. By collecting rainwater you are putting less of a strain on the water that the utilities supply to you.
Can You Get Arrested For Collecting Rainwater?
If you search rainwater collection on the Internet you are probably going to come across articles about a man in Oregon that was arrested for collecting rainwater.
If you dig a little deeper though it turns out that he didn’t get in trouble for just collecting rainwater.
He was actually damming streams that ran through his property which is something quite different from capturing a barrel or two to water your garden or so that you have extra water stored in case of an emergency.
Colorado is one of the States that have laws that explicitly state that collecting rainwater that falls on your property is illegal. But even there the enforcement seems sort of murky and depends on where in the state you are it again seems to depend upon how much you are collecting.
Whether you get into trouble also seems to also depend upon where the water was going. In Colorado, where more that 86% of water goes to agriculture, collecting too much could land you in hot water.
But in Seattle, where any water that isn’t collected just runs into the Puget Sound the issue becomes much less problematic. In fact, the City of Seattle has given a -citywide permit to anyone that wants to collect rainwater.
Even in Tucson Arizona, where the average yearly rainfall is just 12″, not only is rainwater collection allowed – it is encouraged.
Much of the rainfall in Tucson arrives in torrents that quickly pass. Because of this the City requires that all new commercial developments must have a rainwater collection system.
So I encourage you to check before you decide to collect rainwater and see what the local laws are in your area.
How to Collect Rainwater In An Emergency
But one would have to think that even the most draconian government entity would allow rainwater collection during an emergency where the supplies of drinking water supplied by cities through the water pipes could be contaminated.
And the best way to collect rainwater in an emergency is to have a system set up before the emergency so you already have stored water.
Many people do this by collecing water that is draining from their roofs into 55 gallon barrels that are located at the downspouts.
The water is then stored for later use or re-directed to gardens that are meant to supply food in case of an emergency.
Here is a great video showing a very basic and simple installation to collect rainwater:
The thing to remember is that even though rainwater would be usable for washing or irrigating gardens, it might not be ready yet for drinking.
If the emergency that you are facing involves any sort of contamination of the air the rain would wash that contamination out of the air and into your water storage.
You are also getting runoff contaminants that could have collected on your roof normally.
While you should strain out some some of these contaminants with a simple strainer you still would need to purify the water before drinking.
There are other systems are designed to catch water specifically for creating drinking water and route that water into the home.
Conclusion On Collecting Rainwater
Collecting rainwater is a good way to make sure that you are getting fresh water stored to make sure that it is available in case of an emergency.
In any well thought out plan you should more than one way to be prepared so while you should also store bottled water, collection of rainwater will give you another way to make sure that you have the water you need in case of an emergency.