Water is among the most precious resources we have in a disaster situation. Whether you’re dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster, a societal collapse or just a prolonged disruption of your usual water utilities, having plenty of water and the ability to get more is essential.
One of the oldest and still one of the best ways to do this is by harvesting rainwater. But some states actually restrict the practice, and a few outlawed it entirely.
How about Montana? Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Montana?
No, it is not illegal to collect rainwater in Montana. However, residents will have to follow all applicable state and local laws on the matter, and specifically respect the water rights of other citizens.
The good news about Montana is that at the state level there aren’t really any laws to speak of concerning the collection of rainwater.
However, you might run into some hang-ups at the local level depending on where you live, and you’ll always have to be careful about respecting the water rights of your fellow residents.
Overall, though, Montana is a good place to be if you’re interested in catching rain. I’ll tell you more below…
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Montana?
No, because Montana has no laws or regulations limiting the collection of rainwater on a state level. As a result, citizens of Montana, for the most part, have the flexibility to collect rainwater whenever they want.
However, your collection of rainwater must still follow and abide by all other applicable state laws and codes. It’s also worth noting that the State of Montana encourages its citizens to conserve water whenever they can.
Collecting rainwater is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways in which citizens can conserve water, and Montana does nothing to dissuade residents from doing so.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
No. There is no county that I found during the course of my research that bans the collection of rainwater entirely.
But, unlike state-level regulations, Montana counties and municipalities might have their own guidelines or limitations on rainwater gathering.
This will usually mean something like you need to get a permit to install a system, get it inspected, or that the system and its components must meet zoning requirements or plumbing/building codes.
Thus, it is crucial to check with the local government authorities to determine if there are any regulations that apply to the area.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Montana?
Rainwater can be collected anytime, and for any reason, so long as it is done in a manner that does not breach the law, harm the rights of others or cause harm to the environment.
Specifically, your gathering of rainwater cannot directly or indirectly impact someone else’s water rights.
This is unlikely to happen except in the cases of the largest collection systems, but possible. Or it is possible that someone could CLAIM your collection is infringing on their rights!
Generally, water rights are granted based on the “first in time, first in right” principle. Whoever diverts the water for a beneficial use first, acquires the right to use it.
This has led to a process known as “water appropriation” where individuals or entities apply to obtain a certain volume or quantity of water.
In times of scarcity, it could be argued that your collection of rainwater deprived someone of their water since their creek, pond, spring or whatever wasn’t recharging.
Because of this, in Montana it is advisable to consult local experts, including lawyers or water rights specialists, to ensure that your water harvesting practices respect others’ rights, and discuss contingencies when there might be room for doubt.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Montana?
No, not at the state level. Montana has no statewide regulations on rainwater harvesting, and hence, there is no set limit on how much rainwater you can collect in a given period of time, or how much you can have on hand at once.
But once more, it’s wise to check with your local government since some Montana counties and municipalities may have established limitations on rainwater quantity or the size and number of tanks you can have connected at once.
If there are no local rules or guidelines regarding collection, then it usually falls on the user to follow “reasonable” practices regarding water usage.
Collecting an excessive amount of water may be deemed inappropriate when considering how much water is deprived from natural sources like streams, rivers, and other bodies of water.
What Does Montana Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
Montana doesn’t specify what citizens can use harvested rainwater for, but typically legal precedent allows this type of water to be used for non-potable purposes: these include irrigation, cleaning and sanitation, livestock watering, aquaculture and even industrial uses.
Typically, using rainwater as drinking water requires special treatment in order to make it safe for human consumption. It isn’t as clean as you think!
And though the state has no specific laws on using rainwater as drinking water, it is again likely you will wall under the purview of state and local health codes concerning the matter.
But in either eventuality, those who wish to use rainwater for drinking or cooking would benefit from filtration and purification systems to eliminate any harmful bacteria or pathogens from.
Does Montana Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
No. Montana doesn’t specify what kind of equipment or installation is required for private raincatchers. Nor does it mandate inspections for the collection of rainwater.
But that is just the state itself and just for private systems; local authorities might, and in any case, the state has an intricate plumbing code specifically for rainwater harvesting systems.
Does Montana Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
Unfortunately no. Montana does not currently provide any incentives for rainwater harvesting. However, they do encourage water conservation, and rainwater harvesting can help in this regard.
The state government promotes water catchment systems in homes and businesses as a means of helping to lessen the impact on their water supply during drought-like conditions.
While rebates and incentives are currently not offered in Montana, other incentives such as tax credits have been proposed in the past but failed to fund.
Even so, do be sure to check in with your local agencies to see if they offer tax credits, equipment rebates or other incentives. And perhaps as rainwater harvesting becomes even more popular within the state, incentives will indeed be funded!
Bottom Line: Is Montana a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Montana is a very good state for rainwater collection. With no state-level restrictions and minimal local ones, it isn’t hard to get a system up and running.
As long as the harvesting doesn’t infringe on the rights of others, you can collect rainwater freely. Montana has a dry climate, just 15 inches of rain per year on average, which can easily result in drought conditions.
This makes water conservation a high priority for the state and making catchment systems a great idea for preppers in the state- or for anyone.
While there are currently no incentives for harvesting rainwater in Montana, you’ll still get plenty of benefit from your own rain collection practices!
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.