Water is one of the most precious resources we have, and it is doubly precious in the middle of any situation where our usual water supplies are cut off or contaminated.
One of the very best things you can do to ensure your continued access to water, no matter what, is to install a rain catching system on your property.
People have been doing it for thousands and thousands of years, but some states actually tightly regulate the practice.
How about Arkansas? Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Arkansas?
No, it isn’t illegal to collect rainwater in Arkansas but the practice is tightly controlled and regulated. The State Board of Health dictates that any collected rainwater is only used for non-potable purposes, and all systems must comply with the Arkansas Plumbing Code.
This is something of a major disappointment if you live in Arkansas. Compared to every other state in the south, Arkansas has significantly more regulations and oversight on the design, installation and use of rainwater collection systems.
But, it’s just something you’ll have to deal with if you want to set up your own in the state. Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything else you need to know.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Arkansas?
No, the collection of rainwater isn’t illegal at the state level in Arkansas but it is tightly controlled through the State Board of Health. See 17-38-201.
The board of Health has been empowered by the legislature to set standards for the use of rainwater collection systems by citizens.
In short, every rainwater collection system in the state must comply with the edicts of the State Board of Health.
That means they must all be designed by professional engineers and fully comply with the codes laid down and the Arkansas Plumbing Code.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
No, my knowledge there is no county in Arkansas that makes the collection of rainwater outright illegal.
That being said, individual counties and city governments might institute even stricter laws and ordinances concerning the use of rain water catching systems.
It’s bad enough having to comply with the water state laws, but now you must double check and ensure that your local authorities aren’t going to make the process even harder.
I would expect permitting processes and inspections as a matter of course, particularly in more populous areas.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Arkansas?
Citizens of Arkansas can collect as much water as they want with their systems whenever it is raining, and there is no state statute determining times or seasons when rainwater collection is off-limits or restricted.
But with that said, it isn’t out of the question that local or state authorities might issue restrictions or total stoppages on the practice depending on any emergencies that have arisen.
Especially in the case of drought, groundwater or below ground water source depletion, wildfires or the risk of wildfires, and similar situations a stoppage might be issued.
This is not written into the state statutes per se, but it is something you’ll need to keep an ear out for.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Arkansas?
No. There is no limitation on the amount of water you can harvest in a given span of time or the amount of water you can have on hand at once. Not at the state level at least!
It is entirely possible that local laws might be more stringent.
This could happen if you live in an urban or suburban area, or any neighborhood with an HOA, there might well be limitations on the size or total number of storage tanks that you can have connected to your system.
What Does Arkansas Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
Arkansas law only allows citizens to use collected rainwater for non-potable purposes, period.
There is no provision in the law to allow collected rainwater to be filtered and disinfected to render it safe for drinking. Non potable purposes include things like watering your garden, irrigating crops, washing vehicles, and so forth.
Also included in non-potable uses are flushing indoor or outdoor toilet fixtures. Potable purposes are for drinking, bathing, brushing teeth and so on.
This isn’t to say you cannot drink your rainwater in an absolute emergency, but you must know that it is unlawful and could see you fined or potentially even charged criminally.
Also, speaking purely of practical matters something that you might not know is that your collected rainwater isn’t as pure and fresh as you might be thinking…
Rainwater that comes into contact with any collection surface, read that as your roof or a standalone catchment panel, will also be picking up tons of dust, dirt, dead insects, animal droppings, and a whole lot of other stuff that you don’t want to be drinking.
And that is why Arkansas declares rainwater to be non-potable as a matter of course. Strictly looking at the practical problem, it is imperative that you filter and disinfect any rainwater before you drink it, even in an emergency.
Does Arkansas Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
Yes. Every element of a rainwater collection system, from the type of tanks to the connections that can be made with other existing plumbing systems, is it specified and mandated by law and the Arkansas Plumbing Code, enforced by the State Board of Health.
This is bad news for anyone who wants to improvise their own system for very specific purposes.
Because of these guidelines, it’s all but certain that you’ll be forced to deal with bureaucracy at the local level when it comes to getting permits and getting a final sign off on your rainwater collection system.
Does Arkansas Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
No, not at the state level. Arkansas generally encourages citizens to conserve water however they can, and this includes collecting rainwater, but they don’t even have the common courtesy to give you a discount on your taxes after forcing you to obey all these red tape rules.
However, it might be possible to find tax discounts, equipment rebates and other financial benefits at the county or city level, and is also worth your time to ask your water company if you have one.
Quite a few water companies elsewhere in the nation are known to give discounts to your monthly water bill if you use collected rainwater for non-potable purposes. There will be at least a few in Arkansas that do the same!
Bottom Line: Is Arkansas a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Arkansas is just what I would call a fair or average state for rainwater collection, specifically because of all the oversight at the state level.
Beyond mandating what kind of system you can install, every facet of it, they also put the oversight of rainwater collection and use in the hands of the Board of Health.
This means that using rainwater for any potable purpose is completely off the table, legally speaking.
But, assuming you are able to navigate The maze of regulation and red tape, the good news is that Arkansas gets lots of rain each and every year, and the installation of your system will more than pay for itself in time.
That being said, the state isn’t going to help you pay for it, because they offer no incentives for citizens to get into the practice of harvesting rain. You can do a lot worse than Arkansas, but you can do a lot better too.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.