No matter where you live, water is absolutely precious. And sure, you can stock up on a little bit of water to be ready for a weekend power outage, but getting prepared for society-shaking events means you’re going to need a whole lot more on hand (and you’ll need to guarantee your access to water going forward).
The best way to do that, and one used since antiquity, is by catching rainfall. It’s highly effective, and can give you hundreds of gallons of water off of a passing shower, but it isn’t legal to do so everywhere if you can believe that.
Let’s look at Washington State. Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Washington?
No, collecting rainwater is not illegal in Washington though the practice is regulated. Depending on where you live, you might need to get a permit and follow codes for installation. Some counties don’t allow you to use rainwater as drinking water.
Washington State prefers to regulate the collection of rainwater like it regulates everything else, but all jibes aside, the process really isn’t too bad, and it’s even possible to get stormwater rebates in the state by installing a rain harvesting system.
The real problem is keeping up with the almost random patchwork of county laws and regs on the matter. Keep reading, and I’ll help you make sense of Washington’s sometimes confusing laws on rainwater collection.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Washington?
No, it is not illegal to collect rainwater in Washington State. Actually, the state encourages the practice as a way to conserve water, reduce the problems associated with surface stormwater and other rain-related issues.
That being said, the practice is still regulated at the state level, and your collection and use of rainwater cannot interfere with anyone else’s water rights, or violate any other state or local laws.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
No, but county laws vary wildly throughout the state. This is especially pertinent to the type, material and installation of your rain collection system, what purposes you can legally use your collected rainwater for, and whether or not your system and continual operation of said system will require permitting, inspections, testing, and more.
Based on my research, there is no county in Washington that explicitly bans the collection of rainwater, but you will have to do your homework and check with the relevant local authorities prior to embarking on your rain-catching project.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Washington?
Citizens in Washington can generally collect rainwater whenever they want so long as they are following all applicable state and local laws, and so long as the rain is falling on their property.
However, it is possible that the state government or local authorities might implement a temporary restriction or even ban on rainwater harvesting depending on conditions.
Droughts, wildfires, and other hazards might lead to a stoppage of rainwater collection temporarily.
Also, don’t assume that just because there are no state-level laws concerning permissible times or periods to collect rainwater that county laws won’t be significantly stricter.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Washington?
No, at least not at the state level. At the county level, that’s different: Pretty much every county in Washington has its own set of laws concerning the collection of rainwater.
The type of system and the installation of the system as mentioned, but potentially also on how much water you can collect in a given amount of time, or how much you can have on hand at once.
The state does not set any restrictions, but you must check in with your local authorities…
What Does Washington Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
The State of Washington broadly allows citizens to use collected rainwater for non-potable purposes. This means for anything besides drinking or other human consumption.
You can use your collected rainwater for watering your garden, watering your crops, washing your house, pressure washing your car and various other projects.
However, using rainwater for drinking water is handled on a per-case or rather on a county-by-county basis.
Frankly, most counties do not allow rainwater to be used for drinking water, and the ones that do only allow it by following strict guidelines for filtration and purification using chemical or UV means.
This might require further permitting, inspection and water testing before they give you the go-ahead.
If you are planning a truly off-grid home it will be dependent upon rainwater for your primary source of drinking water, you must contact the county Planning Department before you break ground.
Does Washington Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
The State of Washington generally does not mandate specific equipment or system designs, but does typify rainwater collection systems as being fed by the rooftop of a dwelling, with or without integration into the existing gutters.
But once again we will run into all sorts of problems at the county level in the state. Depending on the county where you live, you might be forced to adhere to more or less strict building and plumbing codes concerning the design, materials and installation of your system.
It is highly likely that you will need to get a permit in most places, and you’ll probably require inspection also by the relevant authorities before you get your sign-off.
Referring to the Washington State Plumbing Code is generally helpful, but you really will have to learn and adhere to county and city codes before you even design your system.
Does Washington Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
Yes, they do! Legislation implemented in the state allows commercial buildings, and even certain residential buildings, to have a reduction in their stormwater management fee of up to 10% after the installation of a rainwater catching system.
Also, you’ll definitely want to check with your county or city for additional incentives in the form of tax cuts, equipment rebates and more, along with potentially even greater stormwater fee discounts.
Bottom Line: Is Washington a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
Washington is a fairly good state for rainwater collection. The incentives are nice, and the state gets tons and tons of rain which will make your system installation more than worthwhile.
The major drawback is naturally the state oversight on the systems and the use of the water, and the seemingly random laws, codes and guidelines implemented by all of the counties.
Some are far stricter, others more relaxed, but each of them has their own standards that you must follow.
So if you’re going to install a rain catching system in Washington State you must be prepared to jump through plenty of bureaucratic hoops and make your way through a fair bit of red tape.
But, in the end, you’ll be in a place where your raincatching system can supply you with basically unlimited water.
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.