State Rainwater Harvesting Statues, Programs and Legislation

Read the full story from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Record droughts and water-supply worries have served as catalysts for state legislatures to consider legislation legalizing the catchment and use of rainwater for use in households and for lawns.

There has been increased interest over the past five years in legislation allowing, defining, and clarifying when rainwater harvesting can occur. Rainwater harvesting is the act of utilizing a collection system to use rainwater for outdoor uses, plumbing, and, in some cases, consumption. States have also passed legislation encouraging the use of Graywater. Graywater refers to the reuse of water drained from baths, showers, washing machines, and sinks (household wastewater excluding toilet wastes) for irrigation and other water conservation applications.

States must ensure water-quality standards and public health concerns are met. In some states, such as Colorado, previous water law stated that all precipitation belonged to existing water-rights owners, and that rain needed to flow to join its rightful water drainage. However, a 2007 study conducted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Douglas County determined that only 3 percent of rain actually reached a stream or the ground. Colorado followed-up by enacting two pieces of legislation, one allowing certain types of well owners to use rainwater and one authorizing pilot development projects.

Texas and Ohio are among states that have devoted a considerable amount of attention to this issue, and have numerous enacted laws regulating the practice of rainwater harvesting. Texas offers a sales tax exemption on the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment. Both Texas and Ohio allow the practice even for potable purposes. Oklahoma passed the Water for 2060 Act in 2012, to promote pilot projects for rainwater and graywater use among other water saving techniques.

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