So, Is It Illegal To Collect Rainwater in Wisconsin?

When it comes to surviving natural disasters, man-made calamities or just really tough times, you’ll want to have plenty of resources on hand. Perhaps none of them is more important than water.

flag of Wisconsin
flag of Wisconsin

Water is all around us when times are good, but if anything goes wrong and contaminates or shuts down our usual sources, you can be in trouble.

Accordingly, it makes sense for crafty self-reliant folks and good citizens alike to maintain the means to keep access to water even when things go wrong.

A rainwater collection system is one of the best possible choices to that end, but surprisingly the practice isn’t legal everywhere.

What about Wisconsin? Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Wisconsin?

No, collecting rainwater is not illegal in Wisconsin. There are no state level laws regarding the practice, and precious few municipal or county laws. Wisconsin is a state that doesn’t seem to care one way or the other.

This is certainly good news for most of us, because we won’t have to worry about the bureaucratic red tape of state laws getting in our way if we want to install a couple of rain barrels.

But on the other hand, we won’t find much in the way of financial incentive to do so either. And either case, I will tell you everything you need to know about the legal landscape concerning rainwater collection in Wisconsin below.

Collecting rainwater illegal? | Laws in all 50 States

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

No, collecting rainwater is not illegal at the state level in Wisconsin. There are no state-level regulations that govern the collection and use of rainwater.

Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?

Broadly, yes. There are no counties I was able to discover that ban the practice outright. However it is entirely possible that some counties in Wisconsin have implemented their own guidelines and regulations on rainwater harvesting.

Don’t assume you’ll be in the clear because the state government says so: check with your local government and all pertinent officials (especially for zoning) to determine whether there are any restrictions or permits required for harvesting rainwater in your area or for installing systems.

Failure to do so could result in legal issues and fines!

Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Wisconsin?

Citizens can collect rain whenever they want, assuming they follow all relevant local codes and laws, and assuming also there is no declared state of emergency or other ban on the practice for whatever reason.

Any regulations governing the harvesting of rainwater will largely be left to the discretion of each county and municipality.

I know it is pedantic as can be, but be sure you can, in fact, collect and store rainwater in your locale even though the installation of the system is legal!

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

Once again, there are no state government-imposed limits on how much rainwater can be collected in Wisconsin.

And once again, it’s on you to check with your local authorities to determine whether there are any restrictions or permits required for harvesting rainwater in your area, or over a certain amount of rainwater.

Many counties and municipalities throughout the country have guidelines on the amount of rainwater that can be harvested based on the size of the property or the number of barrels used, and yours might be one of them.

What Does Wisconsin Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?

Citizens can collect rainwater in Wisconsin for non-potable uses, such as watering plants, landscaping, and washing vehicles, and there are no ban or laws against using it for drinking water privately.

That said, it is up to you to ensure that your rainwater cannot contaminate any other source of drinking water, as that is a violation.

It’s also important to note that rain collected from rooftops will contain contaminants, such as dirt, debris, insects, insect larva, and animal feces, which can pose a risk to health.

Therefore, it’s recommended that you only use your collected rainwater for non-potable purposes – unless you will be installing or enacting effective filtering and purification processes.

Does Wisconsin Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?

None whatsoever. Wisconsin doesn’t mandate any specific equipment or inspections for rainwater collection.

But once more, some municipalities will likely have regulations for the style, size and installation of rain barrels or cisterns, or other related components.

Zoning laws are sometimes an issue in this regard, and permitting may be required before you dig, install or build. The use or dispensation of the water might likewise fall under local laws and codes.

If you intend to use rainwater for potable purposes, you might be required to demonstrate effective treatment or submit your water for testing before consumption. Specified treatment methods may include filtration, disinfection, or distillation.

Always verify the legality of any such related equipment before you buy, before you build, and before you start harvesting.

Does Wisconsin Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?

No, sadly. Wisconsin doesn’t offer any financial incentives or tax rebates for rain catching and conservation at the state level.

I couldn’t find any, but your local town might offer tax incentives or even equipment rebates for installing rain barrels or other types of rainwater harvesting systems to offset or reduce public consumption, though.

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

Wisconsin is overall a very good state for rainwater collection if for no other reason than the government doesn’t get in your way.

You will still, though, need to take the time to research their local laws and regulations before proceeding; the state doesn’t have any specific laws governing rainwater collection, but it is possible some counties and municipalities may.

Since Wisconsin is prone to regular rainfall and gets around 34 inches per year, you’ll definitely get lots of use and lots of water from your system, though harsh winters and the necessity of winterizing your system can be a major chore.

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

That said, it is possible to collect snow melt in barrels or other types of rainwater harvesting systems in the warmer periods of cold seasons with a little ingenuity. Doing so can let you collect even more water.

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