Collecting rainwater is one of the very best things you can do if you want to ensure your off-grid water supply. Civil water infrastructure is always vulnerable to being knocked offline or becoming contaminated in the aftermath of various disasters; even well water isn’t a sure thing even with backup generators.
But rain catching systems can supply you with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water during rainy weather.
But, surprisingly, rain collection is regulated in some states, even totally restricted. Let’s look at Massachusetts. Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Massachusetts?
No, it isn’t illegal to collect rainwater in Massachusetts. There are no statewide regulations against the practice, and the state government broadly encourages citizens to engage in conservation of water and other resources. Local laws and codes might be a problem in some areas, however.
Somewhat surprisingly from a state that is more in love with big government than most, Massachusetts has not yet seen fit to institute rules and regs against rainwater harvesting at the state level.
But, local laws might prove to be significantly more restrictive, particularly if you live in the more populous cities or counties.
There’s plenty more to consider, but I will tell you everything you need to keep in mind below…
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Massachusetts?
No, happily. The state of Massachusetts has instituted no statewide rules, regulations or codes concerning the civilian practice of rainwater collection. This means that generally the state will stay out of your way regarding the matter.
However, any residents of Massachusetts that want to collect their own rainwater will still have to do so while obeying all other related laws and codes on the matter.
To be more specific, what you do with your water and how you dispose of it will still be subject to all other state laws.
Even if you’re collecting rain that falls on your property, and doing it properly and safely, you must still respect the water rights of your neighbors and any other potentially affected claims in the area.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
No. I found no single County in Massachusetts that explicitly forbids residents from collecting rainwater.
But, it is at the local level, be it county, city or otherwise, where you’re most likely to encounter legal hoops that require jumping through if you want to install your system.
You’ll generally need to obey all relevant building and plumbing codes, and potentially local laws concerning how much water you can have on hand at any one time, how you store it, and other similar factors.
Remember: just because the collection of rainwater is not illegal and broadly permissible at the state level that does not mean you won’t have to adhere to local laws on the matter!
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Massachusetts?
The State of Massachusetts permits citizens to collect rainwater or whenever they want so long as it is being collected legally.
In other words, so long as you aren’t breaking any other state or local laws if it is raining you can be collecting!
That said, as mentioned above it is imperative that you always respect the water rights of your neighbors and anyone else in the area when you are collecting rainwater.
Although it is highly unlikely that your collection of water would affect the rights or claim of someone else, unless you’re collecting truly gargantuan amounts of water, it is something to keep in mind.
If your collection of rainwater can be provably demonstrated to degrade or reduce the amount of water in above ground sources like streams, creeks or ponds it is possible that you could be sued and forced to stop or change your practices.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Massachusetts?
No, not at the state level. Although the state government imposes no restrictions on the quantity of water you can collect at any given time, over a length of time, or how many total containers or net capacity you can have, your local government just might.
Do be sure to check in with the relevant city and county authorities before you commit to a purchase for a certain number or size of tanks.
What Does Massachusetts Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
The State Government of Massachusetts permits citizens to use captured rainwater for any legal purpose, but practically speaking, you’ll only be able to use your rainwater in the state for non-potable purposes.
Non-potable purposes include things like flushing toilet fixtures, irrigating gardens or crops, washing your house, washing your car or boat, etc.
Although rainwater can be a great source of emergency drinking water when the chips are down, it isn’t nearly as a clean as you’re probably thinking and it state and local health codes will probably prevent you from drinking it legally.
This is because rainwater that touches your roof, other catchment surface, gutters and so forth is going to be full of potentially dangerous contaminants, including dead insects and animal droppings, which can spread disease.
This is why so many local health codes institute such strict regulations concerning plumbing hookups of rainwater catchment systems with other water supplies. They definitely don’t want your rainwater contaminating purified drinking water sources!
If you do plan on using your rainwater as drinking water, you’ll need to go the extra mile to institute proper filtration and purification methodology, and make sure it meets the relevant local standards for doing so.
Does Massachusetts Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
No. The Massachusetts State Government does not regulate any specific type of system, method of installation or other relevant equipment standards for rainwater collection.
But once again, you will almost certainly need to adhere to local building and plumbing codes, to include permitting in some areas, if you want to install a legal system.
Like I said above, it is critical that you do your own research before you commit to the purchase much less the installation of a system. If your system is not legal, you could be forced to remove it or stop using it.
Does Massachusetts Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
Yes. There is a legislation to promote water conservation through the use of a tax credits, see H.2632, and also a variety of other complimentary incentives promoting the use of low water use fixtures and appliances in the home through the Ipswich River Watershed Project.
Bottom Line: Is Massachusetts a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Yes, I think so! Massachusetts is a surprisingly good state for rainwater collection, especially considering that in so many areas of life the state government is absolutely bonkers about being intrusive into citizens’ lives and restrictive of rights over all.
That being said, the state really will not get in your way concerning rainwater collection, and residents only need to concern themselves with local county and city laws, and codes covering the practice.
This is made even nicer by the ready availability of tax credits and various other incentives for water conservation, and also by the fact that Massachusetts gets a lot of rain every single year, averaging about 49 inches worth.
This makes the necessary investment in a rain catching system something of a sure bet considering your return on it… All in all, not a bad state to be in if you want to start collecting rainwater!
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.