Water is a precious resource, and accordingly it’s important to conserve and use it wisely. Humans have been catching and reusing rain since time immemorial but today, in some places, collecting rainwater can actually be a legal gray area, or even outright illegal!
If you live in New Jersey, you might be wondering whether it’s legal to collect rainwater. New Jersey is infamously intrusive regarding many other aspects of residents’ lives, so why not this issue, too? So, is it illegal to collect rainwater in New Jersey?
No, it is not illegal to collect rainwater in New Jersey. In fact, it’s hardly mentioned in any of the state’s statutes. New Jersey residents still have to learn and obey local laws and codes, though.
I am pleasantly surprised on this one; this is definitely against “type” for NJ. But despite this, it doesn’t mean residents can do whatever they want when it comes to raincatching in The Garden State.
In the rest of this article, I’ll take you through the regulations and considerations surrounding rainwater collection in New Jersey, so you can better understand your rights and also your responsibilities.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in New Jersey?
No. It’s not illegal to collect rainwater at the state level in New Jersey. The state actually encourages its citizens to practice rainwater harvesting as it is a sustainable way to conserve water resources and halt stormwater erosion, and other such issues.
But keep in mind that, even though there is no explicit statute against the practice, your collection of rainwater must still abide by all other relevant state laws and codes.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
No, generally. But it depends on the county: While collections of rainwater are legal in the state of New Jersey, some counties and municipalities may have individual guidelines on how to collect rainwater and install systems, or even what you can do with the water.
Therefore, residents should check with their local authorities to learn about any potential restrictions or regulations in their area.
Some counties may require residents to get a permit to install a rainwater harvesting system on their property depending on the zoning.
Other counties may only have restrictions on the size of the rain barrel or other container, or require code adherence for connections and other installation factors.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in New Jersey?
In general, citizens of New Jersey can collect rainwater on their property as long as they adhere to the guidelines set by their local authorities. In short, if it is raining, you can be collecting!
That said, your collection and a subsequent use of the water cannot violate any other laws or codes at the state or county level, and more specifically it cannot infringe on the water rights of other residents.
This is not an occurrence that is likely to happen to most folks who are collecting rain, but if somehow, some way, your collection interfered with the lawful water claim of another person they might have grounds to sue you, or to get the authorities to stop you.
This might be a possibility if your collection is depriving above or below ground water sources of the rainfall they need to recharge, for instance.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in New Jersey?
No, not at the state level, at least. Once more, individual towns may have their own laws on this matter.
Also, something to keep in mind is that it isn’t out of the question for state or local authorities to issue temporary restrictions or even full stops on rainwater collection due to emergency.
Enhanced wildfire risk or ongoing wildfires in an area, long-term drought and more might see authorities seeking to ensure all rainwater is being put to use to help resolve the issue at hand.
To be clear, this isn’t a law per se, but it is within the lawful authority and purview of officials to issue such edicts.
What Does New Jersey Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
Technically, New Jersey state law allows citizens to use harvest rainwater for any lawful purpose.
This certainly entails non-potable purposes like irrigation of crops, watering gardens, washing vehicles, flushing fixtures and so forth.
Technically, maybe, it would allow citizens to use rainwater as potable water, for drinking and washing.
But, and there’s a big but, the chances are basically 100% that the use of rainwater as drinking water will run afoul of state and local health codes.
I know this seems like a terrible affront at first, but hear me out as there’s actually a good reason for it: your rainwater is nowhere near as pure as you think, at least not unless you caught it directly in a completely clean container.
Any rainwater that contacts another surface before being collected, and that includes your roof or any other catchment system, is going to be absolutely full of debris that can harbor germs, certainly dust and dirt but also insects, insect carcasses, bird poop, and more.
Any of this stuff can contaminate your water dangerously.
Accordingly, New Jersey health codes may completely prevent you from using rainwater as drinking water, or not allowing it until it has been satisfactorily filtered and disinfected.
Does New Jersey Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
No. New Jersey has no specific install or inspection requirements, but I will bet that most counties and cities do, especially in suburban and urban areas.
Some locales may require residents to purchase specific types of rain barrels or systems that meet specific guidelines, while others may require an inspection of the system for code compliance before use.
Before installing a rainwater harvesting system, I urge you to check with your local authorities to determine any required equipment or inspections to ensure that the system is compliant with all regulations.
Does New Jersey Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
None that I found, not at the state level. But the good news is that some counties or municipalities will likely offer their own programs or incentives to residents to set up a rainwater collection system.
Examples of incentives that some counties may offer include property tax rebates or credits, reduced fees for rain barrel or other component purchases, or grant programs based on local conservation efforts.
Your best bet for tracking down local incentives is to simply hop on your county website and search in the appropriate department directories.
Bottom Line: Is New Jersey a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Overall, yes! And I am pleasantly surprised. I was definitely expecting New Jersey to stay true to form and regulate the ever-living hell out of rain collection. But, as far as the state is concerned, it is a non-issue…
This lack of interference is great, hurt only by the lack of monetary incentives for rainwater collection.
The one sticking point is that your local government will almost certainly provide some hoops for you to jump through.
And even better news, practically speaking, is that NJ gets a whole bunch of rain each and every year, averaging 48 inches or more!
You won’t struggle in the least to stay in water in The Garden State so long as you have the storage capacity to support it.
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.