In uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to have an ample supply of all the resources you need to survive, and ideally have a way to obtain those resources in a grid-down situation.
Everybody understands how precious water is, and the realization that things are going to get worse before they get better has it led to renewed interest in rainwater collection systems.
Collecting rainwater as a practice has been around for ages, but some states have rainwater regulated, even outlawed, it. Let’s look at Virginia. Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Virginia?
No, it isn’t illegal to collect rainwater in Virginia. The state encourages citizens to do so, but has laws covering its proper use and reuse, and installed collection systems may need to adhere to Chapter 13 of the Virginia plumbing code.
The good news is that you can definitely collect rainwater as a private citizen for a variety of purposes in the state of Virginia.
The bad news is you still need to deal with certain regulations regarding use, and your system might need to adhere to established plumbing code, potentially making your installation more expensive or complicated than it has to be.
But we’ll get to all of that: keep reading and I’ll tell you more…
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Virginia?
No, thankfully. The State of Virginia allows citizens to collect rainwater legally, and use it for a variety of purposes. The state also generally encourages the practice.
However, it has instituted laws concerning the proper collection, use and reuse of rainwater in Virginia Code 32.1-248.2.
More than this, depending on the specifics of where you live and what kind of system you are installing, you might be forced to install it, even have it inspected and permitted, according to Chapter 13 of the Virginia Plumbing Code (VPC).
This isn’t the end of the world, and it’s certainly not as bad as some states, but if all you want are a couple of rain barrels to keep your garden watered you might have more red tape to deal with than you bargained for.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
No, generally, it is not illegal to collect rainwater in any county of Virginia that I was able to find.
However, you should know that it is entirely possible for county and city laws might to be more stringent than the state laws concerning the collection and use of your rainwater, or even the style and installation of your system!
You know that the state of Virginia is happy to let you collect rainwater, but you must do your due diligence and check in with all the relevant local authorities before you buy and install the system and before you start collection.
If you install a system and didn’t get a required permit before doing so, you might be forced to remove it, or you can even be slapped with fines or other charges.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Virginia?
Assuming you are following all relevant state and local laws, citizens can collect rainwater in the state of Virginia anytime it rains and use it for any legal purpose.
Once more, Virginia’s state government generally encourages the practice as a method of conservation, stormwater erosion prevention and to help slow or stop the inundation of vulnerable wetlands with contaminated water.
However, during emergencies or other times of peril local or state government authorities might temporarily declare a stoppage on private collection if the objective is to get as much water back into groundwater sources as possible.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Virginia?
No, there is no state law restricting how much rainwater you can collect in a given period of time or how much you can have on hand at once.
That being said, you’ll definitely need to check out Chapter 13 of the Virginia Plumbing Code to make sure there are no gotchas lurking in there for various installations, as 1301.10.1 specifies that storage tanks must be sized for the intended use of the water. Pretty nebulous, and not helpful…
Additionally, any tanks falling under the purview of Chapter 13 and its subsections must be labeled with the rated capacity.
What Does Virginia Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
The State of Virginia generally allows citizens to use harvested rainwater for non-potable purposes. “Non-potable purposes” mean anything that is not for drinking or other human consumption.
You can definitely use your rainwater for watering the garden, watering your crops, washing your car, washing your boat, washing your four-wheeler, pressure washing your house, and so on and so forth.
But you cannot use your rainwater for drinking under the standards of Chapter 13 of the VPC- which may or may not apply to your home and your situation.
That said, there is no explicit state law preventing you from drinking your collected rainwater.
But you must still adhere to all relevant health code laws, including local laws, and that means that under most circumstances your captured, untreated rainwater is not permissible for human consumption.
Also, before you bet on your rainwater as even an emergency source of drinking water, you should know that any rainwater you harvest is not safe for drinking as-is: it contains dust, debris and even animal droppings from any surface that it contacts before making its way into your holding tank.
Practically speaking, if you were going to drink your harvested rainwater, it should be filtered and disinfected first!
Does Virginia Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
Yes, possibly. Any rainwater collection system that falls under the purview of Chapter 13 of the Virginia plumbing code, or Section 1303 which is typically subject to the provisions of 1301, must adhere to the code.
This code specifies everything from the size, support, material, and construction of catchment systems to holding tanks, including labeling, the installation of cutoffs and valves, overflow systems, alarms and more.
This is all in addition to any local guidelines or HOA requirements that may likewise apply. It is highly recommended you consult with a local expert in your municipality before embarking on the planning and installation of your raincatching system.
The good news is that Virginia has commissioned many excellent guides for the design, use, adaptation, and installation of rainwater harvesting systems. You would be wise to consult and make use of these for your own project.
Does Virginia Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
Surprisingly, considering how enthusiastic Virginia is about instituting rain collection practices, there are no state-level tax incentives, rebates or other financial benefits for doing so, at least not for individual citizens.
You would be smart to check in with your local utility providers and a municipal government to see if they offer any such rebate or tax incentives.
Especially in the Tidewater region of Virginia, any effort that can prevent excess damage or inundation from stormwater is appreciated, and you might well find financial incentive to institute your own rain harvesting system.
Bottom Line: Is Virginia a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Virginia is an acceptable, if not good, state when it comes to rainwater harvesting.
Although there are state laws and a potentially troublesome plumbing code that must be followed, the state encourages citizens to engage in the practice and there are no major roadblocks (at least at the state level).
More important for self-reliant folks and potential purchasers of rainwater collection systems, Virginia gets plenty of rain across most of the state year in and year out, meaning it is a cinch to harvest many hundreds or even thousands of gallons of rainwater each and every month.
If you’re lucky, you might live in a locale that offers tax discounts or even rebates for the installation of your own system.
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.