For self-reliant folks, obtaining and keeping access to off-grid utilities is critical if you want to be prepared for the worst situations possible.
Luckily, one of the most critical resources, water, is also the easiest to obtain totally off-grid by the use of rain-catching systems.
These systems can supply hundreds of gallons of water from just a passing storm. But, as hard as it is to believe, collecting rainwater is not always legal, and in some states it is heavily regulated.
How about Minnesota? Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Minnesota?
No, it isn’t illegal to collect rainwater in Minnesota though setting up your own system will require you to get permitted and adhere to Minnesota board plumbing codes. Minnesota has its own plumbing code which is not uniform with international standards, making this trickier than it has to be.
The good news is that you can harvest rainwater for non-potable purposes in Minnesota, but the bad news is you’ll have to go through a proper dog and pony show trying to check all of the boxes required for the Minnesota plumbing board to get your permit.
It’s not great, but at least it’s possible. I’ll tell you everything else you need to know about Minnesota’s rainwater collection laws below…
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Minnesota?
No, collecting rainwater is not illegal at the state level in Minnesota as explained in Minnesota Administrative Rules 4714.1602.
However, as previously mentioned, the implementation of any rainwater harvesting systems requires obtaining permits and compliance with the Minnesota Plumbing Board, or MPB.
The MBP regulates the design, installation, and maintenance of plumbing systems including those for rainwater harvesting through the Minnesota Plumbing Code.
Minnesota law requires that harvested rainwater is used only for non-potable purposes and must be properly stored to prevent contamination.
Rainwater must also be used in a way that doesn’t cause harm to public health or the environment.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level in Minnesota?
No, at least in no county I found. But, do keep in mind that county or local laws and guidelines may have additional regulations or restrictions on the collection and use of rainwater beyond what the state law imposes.
Some counties may have sharply limited or totally prohibited the installation of rainwater harvesting systems due to water shortage or contamination concerns.
You must check with your county and city or town for guidelines before buying equipment and implementing a rainwater harvesting practice.
You may also need additional local permits beyond what the state demands: failing to do so may entail fines and charges.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Minnesota?
Citizens can generally collect rainwater whenever they want in Minnesota so long as they have an inspected and permitted system for the purpose.
Something to bear in mind is that, despite the state allowing “at will” collection for approved systems, local authorities might institute stoppages or bans for any number of reasons, including drought and contamination.
Everything that you do in the state when it comes to collecting rainwater – from site selection and system type and material – must be approved by officials. That includes when you can collect rainwater versus letting it go to the ground.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Minnesota?
There is no statewide limit on how much rainwater you can collect in Minnesota. But once again, the amount you can collect may depend on local regulations or restrictions storage tank size or number used in the rainwater harvesting system.
What Does Minnesota Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
Minnesota law lets folks use rainwater only for non-potable purposes. Non-potable means that the water must not be used for drinking or any other purpose involving human consumption.
In Minnesota, rainwater can be used to irrigate lawns and gardens, flush toilets, and even wash cars.
It can also be useful in industrial uses such as cooling systems and dust suppression. But it cannot legally be used for drinking landscaping.
Depending on the system and other relevant codes, it might be usable for irrigation of crops, watering livestock, and other “outdoor” water usage.
Regardless of purification systems, Minnesota generally views rainwater as not fit for human consumption.
Does Minnesota Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
Oh yeah. Minnesota Plumbing Code requires specified equipment and inspections both for rain catchers.
Any system must also obtain permits after showing adherence, and continuing compliance, with the plumbing codes established by the Minnesota Plumbing Board.
This can be a bad time since Minnesota has its own unique plumbing code that can deviate pretty far from accepted and common place International Plumbing Code specifications, and also because the state codes are in desperate need of overhaul.
Some specific inclusions for rainwater collection and storage systems include backflow prevention devices, filtration subsystems, antimicrobial materials and additives, and other things that make life damn troublesome when all you want are some rain barrels.
Nonetheless, you must comply with these codes, and additional local codes, and work with certified professionals to ensure the proper installation, maintenance, and inspection of your rainwater harvester. Isn’t life grand?
Does Minnesota Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
There are currently no statewide incentives or rebates for rainwater collection in Minnesota as of press time.
However, some local water utilities may provide rebates or credits to residents who conserve water through rainwater harvesting or other means.
For example, the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) offers a stormwater credit program in the Twin Cities metropolitan area that incentivizes homeowners to install rain gardens, cisterns, and other rainwater harvesting systems, which can reduce contributions to the stormwater system.
Another example is Rochester, which also offers a rain barrel rebate program for non-potable use. But, to be clear, you will still be forced to jump through all the usual hoops for system install and permitting. Sorry.
Is Minnesota a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Minnesota can be considered poor to fair for rainwater collection depending on the location in the state.
You’ll have plenty of red-tape to cut through in some places, and using rainwater for potable purposes (legally) is a non-starter.
Local incentives can help offset costs, which is nice, but the hurdles will prevent many would-be raincatchers from even trying to reach them. But when it comes to the rain itself, it isn’t too bad.
Minneapolis, for instance, gets about 4 inches of rain a month in the spring, which can be a tremendous amount of water if your system is setup. Whether this is worth the hassle is up to you to decide.
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.