Is It Illegal to Collect Rainwater?

You may have heard about a news report, back in 2012, about a man who was sentenced to jail because he collected rainwater on his own property. You may be wondering whether this is something you can or cannot do.

Obviously, rainwater is free and since it’s on your own property, you should be able to collect it for your own personal use. I can still remember the days when I was 5 or 6 when I used to bathe with rainwater that I let sit in the sun for 3-4 hours. Life was much simpler back then.

I’m gonna give you the answer to whether or not you should collect rainwater, but first I want to discuss the case of Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, OR because it’s a very interesting one.

There are some conflicting bits of information out there but one thing is clear. The man spent 30 days in jail and was fined $1,500 for his crime. He went to jail because he collected rainwater on his property from rain and snow. He had three ponds (reservoirs, if you will) and gathered over 13 million gallons.

That’s a lot of water but the real issue is whether he had the right to collect it in the first place. According to him, he had already obtained his permits. He had three of them, one for every pond and apparently, one of his reservoirs was there for over 37 years. After his permits were withdrawn, he was put on trial and thrown into jail.

Now, there are several aspects to this story. The first one is that western states have some pretty weird water laws. Although some news outlets reported the man was indicted based on a 1925 law, the court said the actual law was newer and said that the state of Oregon owns all public water. In other words, “public water” is not public, meaning for anyone to collect. The funny thing is, when they withdrew his permits, apparently, the authorities cited that very same 1925 law.

The real issue here is those permits. He had them so he had every right to do what he did. If the authorities decided one day not to allow this to go on, they should have allowed him to dry out his ponds or since they were in such a hurry, they should have helped him!

The Water Issue

Leaving Mr. Harrington aside for a moment, the big problem is that some US states have serious water issues. California is experiencing a drought and states like Oregon and Washington State also have regions that are extremely hot and dry.

Some of these water laws are enacted to prevent people from diverting rivers or building dams. But the real question we need to ask ourselves is, what if things get worse? We should be and are allowed to collect reasonable amounts of rainwater for ourselves.

There’s no water problem where I live (yet) but you may be a lot less fortunate. Water may become a real problem where you live and your options may be limited (unless you’re willing to move out). One way is to use a dehumidifier or an air conditioner.

An easier option is to store some of the rainwater that falls down on your property. Collecting rainwater becomes an easy and free way of stockpiling for the future, when everyone else will die of thirst.

Is Collecting Rainwater Legal?

Sure, laws vary from state to state but if all you do is collect water from your own rooftop and store it in 55 gallon barrels you should be fine. What you should worry about next is ways to store this water. Keep in mind that water may become more important than gold in times of crisis. The Government has already issued executive orders which allow them to take your water stockpile away if need be and share it with everyone else who didn’t prepare.

If people know you’re stockpiling larger quantities, the rumor might spread and they might come for your water stockpile when the time comes.

So the answer is yes, it’s legal to collect rainwater on your own property for survival purposes. Keeping in mind you’re gonna need at least 3 gallons per person per day in a survival situation (not just for drinking but also for laundry and personal hygiene), you should definitely stockpile rain water.

What Can I Use Rainwater For?

Most people use it as “grey water“, meaning they don’t drink it directly (we’ll talk about this in a minute). Use it to water your garden, as drinking water for your pets, to wash your car, and even do your laundry. Even if you’re using tap water now, in a survival situation, the water you collect now is going to be worth more than gold.

Is Rainwater Safe to Drink?

A lot of people will tell you they’ve been drinking rainwater for years and they’re fine. However, bird poo, industrial discharge, insects, dirt, leaves and contamination from roofing material make it less safe to drink it directly. What you can do is use a black Berkey water filter for the one you intend to drink or simply add the right amount of non-scented bleach to it to kill most microorganisms.

The interesting thing to note is that rainwater is perfectly fine when it falls down from the sky. It gets “infected” more or less the moment it touches your roof and I think I’ve given you plenty of reasons why in the previous paragraph.

How Do I Collect Rainwater?

Collecting rainwater is really easy as long as your roof is equipped for it.

Tip: you may want to throw away the first few gallons of harvested rainwater from every rain (the first wash).

Now, there are certain materials for your roof that make it safer but, even so, the water is still going to have some level of contamination. With that in mind, the easiest way is to not worry about all of these contaminants and just use a Berkey filtration system before you drink any harvested rainwater.

However, if you’re looking to build your roof and would like to know what to materials to use, gravel and asphalt are both great as far as shingles are concerned. Cement roofs are also good from this standpoint but there’re might be too heavy and, thus, cumbersome to install.

About Dan F. Sullivan

My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.


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    Want to learn more on Martial laws

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    I had collected a lot of water in the hard plastic juice jars. One of my clients is also a “prepper” and he told me not to drink that water, that I would need glass jars for drinking water. I have started to gather glass jars with tops but I just wanted to know if he was right or not. I knew I would have to add a little bleach but is it just not drinkable because it was stored in plastic.

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