Every self-reliant guy or gal knows that water is among the most precious resources to have on hand when trouble strikes.
It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a man-made crisis or a natural disaster, the usual civic water sources are easily disrupted, leaving you high and dry when you can least afford to be.
But, if you have a rainwater-catching system on your property, a good rainy day can supply you with many dozens or even hundreds of gallons of water.
But believe it or not, some states have sought to regulate this ancient practice. Is it illegal to collect rainwater and Pennsylvania?
No, collecting rainwater is not illegal in Pennsylvania. The state generally encourages the practice for citizens, and there are no state level laws restricting it. Some county and local regulations might exist, however.
This is great news for anyone living in Pennsylvania that wants to implement rain-catching practices as a matter of policy or as an effective prep.
The state isn’t going to get in your way, though you should double-check all of your local laws before you pull the trigger on a potentially expensive system and subsequent installation.
I’ll tell you everything else there is to know about Pennsylvania’s rules and regulations on rain catching below.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Pennsylvania?
No, there are no state-level regulations or laws that prohibit the collection of rainwater in Pennsylvania. Some states have surprisingly strict laws regarding the collection of rainwater (Ohio! Ahem..).
But fortunately in Pennsylvania, individuals are generally permitted to capture and store rainwater without fear of legal repercussions and for whatever purpose they desire.
You will still want to check for any county or municipal regulations that may apply where you live, though.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
Though Pennsylvania doesn’t have any state-level regulations, some counties might have their own guidelines or prohibitions regarding the issue.
In order to determine whether there are any such regulations in your town, contact your local municipal water authority or a trusted legal expert on the restrictions that may exist in your jurisdiction.
Don’t forget to check both county and, if applicable, town or city codes. And if you live in a nicer area be double-sure to check HOA restrictions; most prohibit the installation of conspicuous above-ground tanks.
By doing this, you can have peace of mind when collecting rainwater and avoid any potential legal issues…
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania generally encourages its citizens to harvest rainwater whenever they want. One thing to keep in mind is that, in a declared state of emergency, the governor might be able to call for a stoppage on all rainwater collection in times of extreme water shortage and other crises.
In addition, your local county or municipal laws might once again specify certain conditions on when you can and cannot collect rainwater, or how much you can collect in a given period of time.
As long as none of those restrictions exist in your area and the state of emergency is not declared, then feel free to collect rainwater whenever you want to!
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, there are no state-level limits on the amount of rainwater you can collect. I know you might already be tired of hearing it, but remember to check all applicable local laws and codes, too.
One issue that is rarely a problem, but still possible, is that of prior appropriation as it concerns the water rights of your neighbors.
If, somehow, you are collecting an exorbitant amount of rainwater, your neighbors might be able to bring a case against you for using too much of “their” water, or for interfering with their access to water that is rightfully theirs to access.
This is most common concerning to groundwater and smaller above ground sources like streams and ponds.
What’s the solution? Let common sense and courtesy prevail. If you’re somehow preventing so much rain from reaching the ground that it causes an issue in the first place, change up your procedures or reduce the quantity.
What Does Pennsylvania Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
While the state government doesn’t specifically outline what citizens can use collected rainwater for, Pennsylvania generally encourages rainwater collection for non-potable purposes.
Water collected from rainwater harvesting systems can be effectively used for your landscaping, gardening, irrigation, washing your car or boat, and other non-drinking or bathing applications.
Homeowners wishing to use collected rainwater for potable purposes should invest in proper treatment and disinfection equipment.
Also, keep in mind that at no time is it permissible to use rainwater for public potable purposes, either as a business or individual.
Does Pennsylvania Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
Nope, none. There are no state requirements for mandated equipment or inspections for rainwater collection in Pennsylvania.
Again, citizens will need to follow local county and municipal laws if they exist.
Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania won’t strangle you with bureaucracy concerning the type, style, material or installation of your rain catching system.
You will, though, be held to the reasonable standard of not doing harm: if your system results in damage, injury or contamination to other water sources, natural or not, you will be held liable and could face criminal charges.
To prevent this unhappy outcome, ensure your collection system is properly designed and installed to prevent contamination of your collected water and any other sources, as rainwater may carry pollutants and bacterial contaminants.
Best practices apply here: Install a first-flush system to remove debris before the water enters the storage container, and also install check valves if the system is directly tied to your household water.
It’s also important to properly maintain your collection system to prevent contamination, so any accumulated debris should be periodically removed.
Does Pennsylvania Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania doesn’t offer any state-level incentives or rebates for rainwater collection that I could find.
The state is pretty enthusiastic about encouraging citizens to collect and use rain, but they don’t offer actual cash incentive.
If I were you, I would check in with local utility companies and townships, as discounts on your monthly bill and even tax write-offs are possible.
But don’t forget: Even without incentives, rainwater collection systems can still save you a bundle on water, and more importantly will serve as a hedge against disaster.
Bottom Line: Is Pennsylvania a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Pennsylvania is a great state for rainwater collection! There are no state-level limitations on the amount of rainwater that can be collected, making it more accessible and flexible for citizens to design and install systems to meet their needs easily and cheaply.
There might be some local laws that could prove to be snags, but these must be minor.
Also, with annual precipitation ranging from approximately 30 to 50 inches per year, you will certainly get lots of use (and lots of water) from your system, more than justifying the expense of installation.
You can’t do much better than Pennsylvania when it comes to rainwater harvesting!
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.