Collecting Rain Water Runoff Legal or Not

Rain Water Collection

The following is for informational purposes only. The advice and opinions are just that, and in no way should be seen as conclusive. Laws and regulations are continually changing, and it is up to you to stay informed as much as possible on your local and state laws as well as any applicable federal laws.

Currently Colorado prohibits the collection of water runoff, except in certain cases where permission is granted, and how you get permission is still a mystery. Otherwise you cannot collect rainwater runoff even in small amounts for personal use.

Nevada has some very vague language in their regulations that leads many, if not most, to believe it is illegal.

A spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources states however, that water collection is subject to existing water rights per NRS 533.030. The interpretation is that you cannot collect water in rain barrels without the benefit of a “water right”. However, the spokesperson goes on to say that the Division of Water Resources does not police nor will they police rain barrels. You have to decide what this means if you live in Nevada (Robison, 2015).

Some states like Minnesota have restrictions on the amounts, but for the normal household you would never exceed the amount you can collect without a permit.

You would need a permit called a “water appropriation permit” for use that exceeds 10,000 gallons in any one day or 1,000,000 in one year with the exception for domestic use if less than 25 people are being serviced. Again you have to decide how this affects you.

{See Minnesota Statutes, Section 103A.201, and Section 103G.271, subd. 1, and Minnesota Rules, Part 6115.0600.}” ( State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources, n.d.)

As for the rest of the country no state specifically prohibits the collection of water runoff from your roof, but the wording is again vague in some cases, and there are certain regulations in place. You can collect in barrels in most instances for your own use, and in some states people are encouraged to do so.

In most jurisdictions you cannot divert the flow of so-called public rivers or streams or dam such waterways or collect water in a containment pond/receptacle that may overflow onto public lands or contaminate public use waterways.

The headlines came out and the hue and cry went out as well, people being jailed and fined for water collection on their own property. In one particular case a landowner diverted flowing surface water and created a containment problem. He was in clear violation and was given numerous warnings to cease without penalty but he refused.

Some states heavily regulate water collection and it takes some reading to figure it all out, as is the case in California. However, in 2012 the state legislature made it legal to collect rainwater from your own roof in barrels. Assembly Bill number 1750.


The problem many face is the wording in most laws. What does water containment mean to you and what does it mean to regulators.

Unless it specifically states you cannot collect runoff such as in Colorado, you can collect rain water off your own roof in barrels.

What you cannot do is dam up rivers or streams, build ponds, and let them overflow and do certain other things to contain runoff from other than your roof. Some of the regulations do protect you and the rest of us. Suppose your neighbor dug a containment pond and let rain runoff fill it. You may have a private well on your land, and if your neighbor were careless about his or her farm equipment and let oils and fuels run into the pond what would this do to your private well. You really do not know what might be leaching into the ground water when there are large containment ponds that are not regulated close to your well.

Read the laws carefully, but the bottom line it is unlikely that if you have a few or even a dozen barrels under your gutter spout that anyone is going to jail or fine you. This of course is an opinion based on research, and it is up to you to do your due diligence before moving forward.

Anything you do has to be tempered with some common sense. There are regulations and there always will be. You can accomplish a lot as a Prepper if you do not draw attention to yourself and keep your plans to yourself. Neighbors and others with too much time on their hands always seem to want to have their nose stuck in everyone else’s business at times. Do not give anyone a reason to look to closely at what you are doing by keeping your plans a secret.

State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved 2015, from

Orpheus. (2015). Retrieved 2015, from

Robison, M. (2015, May). Retrieved 2015, from