Whether you’re preparing for disasters or just major mishaps with public utilities, keeping a lot of extra water on hand is a great idea. For drinking, washing, watering plants, and giving it to pets or livestock, you won’t last long without it.
This is a doubly important in dry, hot environments, and to help ensure constant access to water, some folks have taken to installing rain catching systems on their homes or elsewhere on their properties.
But as hard as it is to believe, this practice isn’t legal everywhere, even though it’s been done for thousands of years!
Let’s look at Nevada. Is collecting rainwater illegal in Nevada?
No, it is not illegal to collect rainwater in Nevada, but the practice is sharply controlled at the state level. Residential households may collect only enough to fill a modest container using the runoff from the roof of the home and only for non-potable purposes.
Until about 2017, collecting rainwater was absolutely illegal in Nevada, end of discussion. Even collecting a little bit of rain in a bucket was against the law!
I’m not joking, and though recent years have seen the state make some favorable inroads regarding the practice, they still have a very, very long way to go to catch up with most other states in the nation.
You might need a backup plan for emergency water if you live in Nevada, but keep reading and I’ll tell you what you need to know.
Is Rainwater Harvesting Illegal at the State Level in Nevada?
No, the collection of rainwater is no longer illegal in the state of Nevada but it is still extremely controlled.
With the signing of Assembly Bill 138 in 2017 residents are finally able to collect just a little bit for themselves and their families, but only for non-potable use.
In short, residents of Nevada may only collect rainwater runoff from the roof of their home only, de minimis.
De minimis is a legal concept basically referring to amounts that are insignificant to the law, and this is generally construed to be a single rain barrel for a single-family residence.
The reason for this tyrannical oversight of water is partially due to Nevada being among the driest places on the continent and also because of the assessment of the State Environmental Protection Agency and engineer corps determining that all precipitation is pretty much vital to recharge groundwater sources.
The veracity of this statement is debatable, and has been debated hotly, over time after it was found out that some people were able to secure water rights permits to these sources.
If they are so important, why is anyone allowed to use them instead of just the public at large?
At any rate, that’s the bottom line: using any more than a little bit of rainwater collected from your roof, using extra large or multiple containers, collecting with a standalone system or collecting from the roofs of multiple buildings or buildings that are not your own will see you in violation of Nevada law.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
Not generally. To my knowledge there is no county in Nevada that outright prohibits the collection of rainwater beyond what the state mandates, though I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that some counties and municipalities have seasonal or discretionary bans on collection.
You must make it a point to investigate where you live concerning the edicts of local authorities and agencies on rainwater collection.
Don’t assume that just because the state has slightly loosened its grip on the practice that your county or town has!
Legal inertia is a thing, and you could still be fined or charged for inadvertently violating county laws that have not caught up with rainwater state laws.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Nevada?
Citizens are only allowed to collect the bare minimum amount of rainwater needed for non-potable domestic use.
As outlined above, this means typically a single rain barrel that is fed only from a collection system supplied by the roof of their home.
It is illegal to collect using multiple buildings, to collect water from any other building besides your home, to fill more than one large container or any other excessive use of rainwater.
The only other exception is for using rainwater to feed a guzzler device for supplying wildlife with water, but that doesn’t apply to ordinary citizens: that is taken care of by the Department of Wildlife.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Nevada?
Yes, and that supply is sharply limited. The exact words of the bill, Assembly Bill No.138, refer to the “de minimus” (sic) collection of water.
De minimis is Latin, and in relation to the law means “the law cares not for small things”; de minimis non curat lex.
Generally speaking, it means a use, scale, or amount which is of insufficient importance. Nevada has treated all rainwater as very, very important historically, and only recently has deemed it allowable for citizens to collect even a bucket’s worth of rain.
So exactly how little water is too little to be worthy of care to the state? They aren’t saying, and nowhere is it said in the bill.
Generally, the assessment of a state engineer could deem your use, of any amount, excessive to your requirements. How’s that for freedom, huh?
Broadly speaking, if you have a single rain barrel that is fed from your house, you are okay, but you had better be able to demonstrate an active use case for that water if pressed.
What Does Nevada Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
Non-potable purposes only, the end. Nevada law specifies that citizens may only use collected rainwater for non-potable use, such as gardening, watering crops, washing cars, washing your house, and other related chores.
You cannot use your collected rainwater for drinking, legally, in the State of Nevada.
Does Nevada Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
Nevada law doesn’t mandate any particularly special equipment, but any installation and use of your rainwater collection system cannot represent a health hazard to people, animals or other water supplies, be they natural or man-made.
Similarly, all rain collection systems are subject to inspection and assessment by state-appointed engineers and other officials. If your system or tank is deemed excessive, you might be ordered to downsize.
Does Nevada Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
No. Nevada is the most tight-fisted state in the nation concerning the collection of rainwater by citizens, so they sure as hell aren’t going to give you any tax breaks or other financial incentives for the privilege.
It isn’t out of the question that your county or city might offer some tax rebates or other benefits for collecting and using rainwater, but this is highly unlikely.
Bottom Line: Is Nevada a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Absolutely not. Nevada is the most tyrannical state in the union concerning the collection of rainwater.
With completely arbitrary standards for what constitutes enough or too much, and stringent limitations on how you can set up your rainwater collection system, you’re pretty much limited to a bog-standard rain barrel that is fed by the gutters on your house, and nothing else. That is according to state law.
Nevada is one of the driest places in North America, so I can understand why the government would be adamant about getting all of the water going into the ground to recharge natural supplies, but this does nothing to help individual citizens be ready for tough times.
Sadly, you’ll have to figure out a better backup plan if you want to have emergency or off-grid water in the state.
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.