So, Is It Illegal To Collect Rainwater in North Carolina?

One of the single most important resources you can have is water, pure and simple. Whether it’s for day-to-day operations and tasks around your home, taking care of chores or as an emergency source of drinking water, you’ll definitely want a huge supply when trouble strikes.

flag of North Carolina
flag of North Carolina

One of the best ways to ensure you always have access to plenty of water is to install a rainwater collection system. But, not every state allows citizens to collect rainwater freely.

Let’s look at North Carolina… Is it illegal to collect rainwater in North Carolina?

No, collecting rainwater is not illegal in North Carolina, and the state actually encourages the practice and even offers rebates for doing so. However, under North Carolina state law, only the use of rainwater for flushing toilets and outdoor irrigation is protected.

North Carolina is an interesting case when it comes to rainwater collection by citizens. On one hand, the state is certainly keen on encouraging the activity through the use of rebates, and by preventing counties from enacting any bands on the practice for certain purposes.

On the other hand, the state only specifically protects the use of rainwater for the flushing of toilets and for outdoor irrigation. You’ll want to know more, so keep reading…

Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in North Carolina?

No, rainwater collection isn’t illegal in NC. Just the opposite, in fact: it is absolutely legal, and citizens’ rights to do so for certain purposes are protected by state law.

North Carolina is so enthusiastic about getting citizens to collect rainwater that it has actually instituted cost share program for the installation of what are called BMPs, or best management practices, to protect groundwater quality and enable water conservation generally.

Collecting rainwater illegal? | Laws in all 50 States

Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?

No, the collection of rainwater is legal in every single county throughout North Carolina since the state has enacted a law, HB 749, that precludes any county from instituting regulation that prohibits citizens from using cisterns (that’s water tanks) for the purposes of collecting rainwater to flush toilets, water gardens, or crops.

That being said, it isn’t out of the question that various county laws and codes might be in accordance with HB 749 and still be more stringent than the State’s requirements.

A comprehensive county overview at this level is beyond the confines of this article, let’s suffice it to say you are always wise to check in with your local authorities before you plan, purchase or install any rain collection system.

Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in North Carolina?

Citizens are generally allowed to collect rainwater whenever they want in North Carolina so long as they are following all applicable state and local laws.

Broadly speaking, unless there is an emergency stop order issued by local- or state-level authorities you can collect rain whenever it is raining.

It should be noted that such stop orders are likely to be quite rare considering how much precipitation North Carolina gets every year, but in cases of drought or groundwater depletion it could be a possibility.

Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in North Carolina?

No. There is no state law that restricts how much rainwater you are allowed to collect over time or how much you can have on hand at once.

That said, you’ll need to follow the guidelines set down in the North Carolina Plumbing Code which is a slightly modified version of the International Green Construction Code concerning rainwater collection systems.

All the information you need in this regard is included in this appendix.

What Does North Carolina Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?

This is where things get a little bit tricky in North Carolina. Under state law, which they enforce at the county level, citizens are allowed to collect rainwater for the purposes of outdoor irrigation, and for the flushing of toilets. That’s it.

It makes no mention of lawful, or unlawful, collection for the purposes of washing your car or your home, for any other common gray water purposes and for no potable purposes. See Chapter 143-138 b12. Just search for it on the page.

Portable purposes always include use as drinking water, and depending on the specific state definition might include things like washing, bathing, cooking, brushing your teeth, and so forth.

So, the state law doesn’t explicitly forbid these things…

However, because of the states-reliance on its own plumbing code which is basically copied from the international plumbing code, if you are forced to follow code in regards to use of your rainwater you won’t be able to use your rainwater legally for potable purposes.

And switching gears off of legal beagle mode for a moment, if you plan on using rainwater for drinking water one way or the other, make sure you properly filter and disinfect it first: rainwater that is collected off of any surface, be it your roof or some other system, will be full of dust, dirt, debris, insects, animal poop and a lot more stuff they can potentially harbor germs that will make you seriously ill.

Likewise, if you’re counting on your rainwater as a lawful source of emergency drinking water, make sure you inquire about the specific codes for purification systems, and that will likely require inspection and testing for verification before you get a sign-off.

Does North Carolina Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?

Yes. Required permitting for design and installation of your rainwater collection system is likely, and all equipment materials, connections and operation are defined in the relevant parts of the North Carolina Plumbing Code.

This is a bit of a bummer for folks who just want a super simple and improvised system for outdoor use only, but that is just the way the cookie crumbles in North Carolina.

Does North Carolina Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?

Yes! First things first, make sure you check in with your local county and town or city authorities looking for tax breaks, equipment rebates and other financial incentives.

But as far as the state is concerned there are also cost-sharing programs available through the CCAP, or Community Conservation Assistance Program.

This initiative is designed to improve water quality in North Carolina by encouraging folks to utilize BMPs in rural, suburban and urban environments alike.

All you need to do is apply directly to your local Soil and Water Conservation district for financial assistance with the installation of your system that is designed, and can be proven, to protect local water quality.

Eligible projects, if approved, can receive a financial assistance of up to 75% off of the cost of your installation!

That’s huge, and especially a great incentive for suburban and urban preppers looking to stand up a rain-catching system on a budget.

Bottom Line: Is North Carolina a Good State for Rainwater Collection?

I would say that North Carolina is a pretty good state for rainwater collection despite the overarching authority they reserve for determining what kind of system you can install and what you can use the water for.

North Carolina law prohibits any county from banning the practice outright, so you know that no matter where you go the option is at least on the table.

Read also: Rainwater Collection Laws in the US – An Overview

North Carolina also gets lots of rain which is incentive enough to pull the trigger on a system, but the addition of really excellent cost rebates through the CCAP, and likely other rebates locally, is a great incentive to commit to an installation.

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