Most states in the U.S. actually encourage citizens to collect rain. In fact, lawmakers in Texas and Ohio have enacted laws that encourage rainwater collection in order to relieve the demand on public water supplies.
Laws in two other states, Colorado and Nevada, insist that all falling rain belongs to existing water-rights owners, usually heirs whose ancestors claimed those rights as much as a century ago for agricultural purposes.
When a 2007 study by the Colorado Water Conservation Board found that only 3% percent of rain actually reaches a stream, making the ‘water rights’ argument rather weak, state legislators revised rainwater collection laws. Now, citizens not served by municipal water systems may own and use rain barrels. Colorado officials admit there is almost no way to monitor the state’s rainwater laws because resources aren’t available to monitor every residence for illegal barrels.
Nevada suffers the same severe drought as neighboring California and has approximately 1,900 water-related laws on its books. One prohibits citizens from collecting rain in a rain barrel. According to Nevada laws, no one can collect and use rain – not even with a 50-gallon rain barrel – without the benefit of a water right. Violating the law is a misdemeanor, but Nevada insiders say the law isn’t enforced.
For years, California prohibited rain collecting. But facing a four-year drought and with increasing restrictions on water use, that attitude has changed. Now several cities permit and encourage rain barrels.
Before collecting rain at your own home, be sure to check and follow local laws.