Saturday, December 24, 2011

Collecting Rainwater Is Illegal

Someone sent me a pointer to this bizarre report about how it is unlawful in Utah to collect rainwater.  Here's the news report of what happened when Miller Toyota decided to do something good for the environment by collecting rainwater from their roof and using it to wash cars:

Yes, it is unlawful in Utah! You understand that on many islands and coastal communities of the Aegean Sea, this has been the way that they have operated for thousands of years--gather rainwater in cisterns.  Government out of control, again.

UPDATE: A reader tells me that in the meantime, Utah's legislature has corrected this matter:
Rainwater harvesting is now legal in the state of Utah, starting May 11 2010. Senate Bill 32 was approved in the 2010 session that provides for the collection and use of precipitation without obtaining a water right after registering on the Division of Water Rights web page ( There is no charge for registration.
Storage is limited to one underground 2500 gallon container or two above ground 100 gallon containers. Collection and use are limited to the same parcel of land owned or leased by the rainwater collector.


  1. Since you were born and raised in the West and still live there I'm surprised you're surprised by this. I live at the Missouri-Kansas border and you don't have to go very far west before it becomes remarkably dry by my standards. Therefore a system of prior appropriation water rights was developed, starting in 1872 according to Wikipedia. And you indeed don't necessarily own the water that falls on your land.

  2. Not entirely government out of control but rather a western interpretation of water rights to include the right to surface runoff. Prior appropriation / right means you can't later come in and intercept what is someone else's water.

    This was recently legislatively overturned in Colorado.

  3. I'm given to understand this is true in Washington as well, you can't save rainwater for say, watering your lawn (Even though that would still be runoff, right?

  4. Late to the party as usual, but to quote Mark Twain, "Whiskey's for drinkin', water's for fightin'".
    I don't know for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that it's also illegal in the California Owens Valley to collect the surface runoff, as that belongs to the City of Los Angeles under all those secret leases and as a result of the water wars of the early 20th Century.

  5. I live in Utah and it *WAS* illegal to harvest rainwater. As of May 2010, it's been legal to harvest rainwater on your own property.

    It's still government overreach, but it's not THAT bad.

  6. I can see why some states would have restrictions on collecting water, but I do think that people should have a limit for how much they can collect. Glad to see Utah got it right in 2010!
    -Jack @ Stormwater Control