Rainwater is a valuable resource for people living in any areas where water is scarce or expensive. It is also a godsend, if you can collect it, anytime the usual supplies are offline or contaminated.
Naturally, many preppers are keen to invest in rainwater catching and storage systems so they can ensure they have a supply of safe water no matter what is going on in the world.
But, believe it or not the legality of rainwater harvesting is somewhat ambiguous in various states, and rules and regs abound. How about Illinois? Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Illinois?
No, it is not illegal to collect rainwater in Illinois. However, the state does have some rules about how it can be used and stored for later use, and local governments can force system owners to comply with state plumbing laws and codes.
Hardly a surprise considering how litigious and out of control government, at all levels, is in Illinois.
But, that’s just the way it goes, and depending on where you live in the state you might have an easy time getting a system installed and using your rainwater, or you might have a very, very hard time.
Keep reading and I will tell you more about some of the current laws and issues related to rainwater collection in Illinois.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Illinois?
No, collecting rainwater isn’t illegal at the state level in Illinois. However, there are specific regulations that individuals must follow to ensure that their systems meet certain criteria.
Plus, the state government has empowered all local governments to force adherence to state plumbing laws and codes for private rainwater collection systems.
Even smaller, residential-scale systems are not exempt from permit and inspection requirements as long as local governments dictate.
For example, the systems must be proven to not pose a public health risk, must not negatively impact the environment or neighboring properties, and must not impact the water quality of any civic systems, streams, rivers, or groundwater.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
No, technically, but in some areas the practice will be so odiously overregulated that it might as well be illegal.
While collecting rainwater is not illegal at the state level in Illinois, counties and municipalities have their own guidelines, codes, and regulations, and these are bolstered by the state government allowing them to enforce state plumbing laws and codes on local users. See SB0032, SB0038 and SB2549.
For example, Cook County has provisions and guidelines that only commercial and industrial properties must follow if they are considering a rainwater harvesting system.
Other counties, such as McHenry County, have no specific regulations on rainwater harvesting per se, but may require a building permit for any rain barrels or cisterns depending on the location and purpose of the system.
It is recommended that residents interested in collecting rainwater consult their local ordinances and seek guidance from their county or city officials before purchasing, much less installing, a rain catcher system.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Illinois?
Under state law, citizens of Illinois can collect rainwater any time, barring emergency declaration, if they follow the guidelines and regulations set by their local authorities- which might include state plumbing laws and standards!
In many locales, citizens will need to consult with an official or professional to assess the quality and safety of their system and ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to maintain water safety prior to putting it into service.
Additionally, citizens must be aware of any local regulations or guidelines that may affect the design, installation, or use of their rainwater collection system: non-permitted or non-standard systems might be illegal to use at all!
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Illinois?
Potentially. There are state-level regulations that limit how much rainwater you can collect in Illinois without obtaining a permit.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) regulates non-potable rainwater harvesting systems that produce over 1,000 gallons per day or 100,000 gallons per year.
Those who exceed these limits are required to obtain a permit from IEPA, which includes a detailed application process.
Homeowners who collect rainwater on a small scale for non-potable use, such as watering plants, washing cars, or filling pools, are generally not subject to these limits, but there is no telling in this state!
What Does Illinois Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
Illinois law generally lets citizens use rainwater for a variety of non-potable purposes, subject to additional local and county-level regs and guidelines.
Examples include irrigation and watering of lawns, gardens, and crops, flushing toilets, washing cars and equipment, or filling up ponds and fountains.
Notably, you generally cannot use rainwater to fill a pool or hot tub; it might be considered potable!
Rainwater collected and used for these purposes is legal only as long as the system that collects and stores it is properly designed, installed, maintained and, if required, permitted.
Does Illinois Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
Yes, as a rule of thumb, at the local level. The State of Illinois does not directly require special equipment or inspections for most residential-scale rainwater harvesting systems.
However, they do, indirectly, by allowing local governments to force citizens to adhere to state plumbing law and codes when installing their catchment systems.
By way of an example, you should expect a requirement for tight-fitting screens or other devices to prevent debris and insects from entering any storage tank (per IEPA regs), or mandated testing of water quality of the rainwater system at least once per year to ensure that it is safe for its intended use (per IDPH).
In some cases, rainwater harvesting systems may require additional equipment or specialized inspections depending on the municipality.
For example, if the collected rainwater is to be used for potable purposes such as drinking or cooking, even privately, the system has to be equipped with additional treatment and disinfection equipment.
Does Illinois Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
No, the State of Illinois does not currently have any financial incentives for rainwater collection.
It is possible some local governments or service providers may offer rebates, grants, or tax credits for installing a rainwater harvesting system, but I couldn’t locate any.
Again, you should contact your local government or utility provider to see if any incentives are available.
Bottom Line: Is Illinois a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Illinois is only a “fair” state for rainwater collection: though the state enjoys a moderate to high amount of rainfall and does not have any true state-level restrictions, the state’s allows local governments to impose the state’s codes and other laws on citizens’ system installations and use.
Counties and municipalities may also have their own entirely separate guidelines, codes, and regulations pertaining to rainwater harvesting or the use of said water, even if it is totally private in nature.
Therefore, it is important for residents to research carefully and adhere to all regulations before buying a rainwater harvesting system, and then keep up with inspection and permitting requirements.
The interplay of state and local laws in this way has created a patchwork of rules that is difficult for your average person to deal with.
Nonetheless, a properly designed, installed and maintained rainwater system can provide Illinois residents with lots of usable water on-site when they need it.
It’s just a shame you have to dig through so much red tape in so many places…
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.