So, Is It Illegal To Collect Rainwater in Tennessee?

One of the single most important resources you can have on hand, during times of disaster or otherwise, is water. Whether you need it for drinking, for irrigating your garden or crops, or for any other purpose, water is an incredibly precious resource.

flag of tennessee

One of the very best ways to get a lot of water very quickly and for very little investment in infrastructure is a rain-catching system.

Humans have been catching rain for thousands and thousands of years, but some of our modern day governments have started to regulate or even outlaw collecting rainwater.

How about Tennessee? Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Tennessee?

No, it’s not illegal to collect rainwater in the State of Tennessee. There are no state-level restrictions on the practice, and authorities encourage citizens to do so. However, you still have to obey local laws and codes.

Overall, there’s a lot to like about Tennessee if you want to start harvesting your own rainwater. The state isn’t going to get in your way, and generally speaking at most local building codes, and laws are reasonable and not too restrictive.

That said, there’s still more to know and plenty more to consider if you want to start implementing your own rainwater collection program. Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know…

Collecting rainwater illegal? | Laws in all 50 States

Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Tennessee?

No, there are no state-level restrictions on the collection of rainwater in Tennessee. You’ll be happy to know that the state government generally encourages its residents to engage in rain catching as a method of civil preparation and also reducing the strain on utilities.

But, one other thing you should keep in mind is that despite the practice not being made specifically illegal or regulating at the state level, there are relevant laws that still have to be obeyed.

Said another way, you cannot break any other law while collecting rain and using it. For instance, laws concerning the dispensation or dumping of stormwater will have to be obeyed, as will the water rights of other citizens when and as applicable.

Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?

No. I could find no example of any county in Tennessee that specifically forbids the practice of rainwater collection by citizens.

But on the other hand, in most places, and especially the more populous counties, you will have to obey relevant local laws and codes concerning the installation of your system and potentially the use of your rain water.

By way of a for instance, local building and plumbing codes will probably specify to a degree what kind of components you must use for your system, and how they can be installed and connected to existing plumbing infrastructure, if at all.

Similarly, local health codes might specify that you cannot use your collective rainwater for drinking water, even privately for your own home and family.

Or, it might specify that you can only use your collected rain as drinking water after a specified filtration and purification process.

These generally aren’t laws to worry about, and Tennessee is very much a pro-freedom state, but do be sure to check in with your county and or city authorities for more before you begin.

Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Tennessee?

Citizens in Tennessee can collect rainwater pretty much whenever it is raining. You don’t need an excuse or a justified use in order to collect rainwater. If it’s raining, falling on your property, and you have the equipment to collect it, it’s yours.

However, residents should also be aware that it’s entirely possible for local or state level authorities to issue restrictions, temporary stoppages or permanent stoppages on an emergency basis.

Severe droughts, ongoing wildfires, or enhanced wildfire risk might see authorities issuing a stoppage on rain collection in order to ensure that all available rainwater is making its way into the ground and subsequently above ground sources so that it can be used on demand.

To be perfectly clear, there is no specific law on such in Tennessee, not at the state level, but rather this circumstance would fall under the usual emergency powers of elected officials.

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

No, not at the state level. However, municipal laws might set regulations on how much water you can collect in a set amount of time or how much water you can have on hand at once, measured either by quantity, total capacity or specific number of storage tanks.

You don’t need to worry about the Tennessee State government breathing down your neck regarding how much rain water you collect, but as always, make sure you double check with your local authorities.

What Does Tennessee Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?

The State of Tennessee allows citizens to use rainwater basically for whatever they want so long as it is for any legal purpose.

Nominally, this includes potable and non-potable purposes, although practically speaking you will usually face legal ramifications if you plan on using your rainwater for drinking unless it is a true emergency.

This is because collected rainwater is not considered safe and suitable for drinking, and so local health codes might forbid it.

Rainwater that washes over your roof, gutters or any other collection surface before finding its way into your holding tanks is going to be contaminated with all sorts of solids, chemicals and heavy metals that you definitely don’t want to drink.

Animal feces, bug carcasses and other nasty things will introduce germs into the water that can make you and others gravely sick.

On the other hand, you can definitely use your collected rainwater legally and safely for any non-potable purpose, including flushing toilet and other plumbing fixtures, irrigating crops and gardens, watering your lawn, washing your car and other vehicles, and things like that.

Always check your local laws and codes before you assume that any use for your rainwater is lawful.

Does Tennessee Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?

No. Tennessee State law doesn’t require specific equipment, special inspections or approval for you to install any rainwater harvesting system.

But, as you probably already guessed, this is the part where I warn you that your local building codes, plumbing codes, and other laws will probably come into play and might bite you on the behind if you don’t do your due diligence prior to buying and installing your system.

Although fairly uncommon compared to other states, it also isn’t out of the question that you might need to get a permit and final sign off before you can install and use your system respectively.

Does Tennessee Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?

No, there are no state level incentives for rainwater collection. Tennessee is definitely pro-collection, but they do not offer tax breaks, equipment rebates or anything else like that to financially encourage citizens to get into it.

But once again, it is entirely possible, even likely in some areas, that your county or city might do precisely that.

Many places that have a hard time dealing with excess stormwater will incentivize citizens to install rain catchment systems, even if it is just a few rain barrels.

This incentive might take the form of tax credits, financial assistance, or even straight-up rebates for rain catching system equipment and more.

The best place to check for these rebates is on your county website.

Bottom Line: Is Tennessee a Good State for Rainwater Collection?

Overall, yes, Tennessee is a very good state for rainwater collection, with only a few points taken off for a lack of state level incentives.

The State of Tennessee will not get in your way or interfere with your installation, collection or use of rainwater, so the only thing that respective installers need to worry about are local county and city level laws and potentially building or plumbing codes.

Tennessee gets tons of rain every year, averaging a little bit over 41 inches which breaks down to about 4 inches a month, give or take. With a properly set up rain collection system feeding large tanks, you can stay in literal tons and tons of water all year round.

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

It is possible for Tennessee to get cold enough that you’ll need to winterize your system, which is something of a bummer especially for larger ones, but this is a small price to pay for amazing water opportunities.

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