Here at BlueBarrel, we love highlighting customer projects on our website and Facebook page. But these days we can hardly post on social media without a litany of comments claiming rain barrels are illegal. In years of speaking professionally about rainwater harvesting, it's one of the more common questions I get:
Aren't rain barrels illegal?
What's With the Nasty Rumors?
1. It's a catchy idea, and a fun rumor to spread. In a day and age when it's popular to grumble about the government, it sure is fun to tell your neighbors you can't even collect the water that falls on your own roof. Picture Mr. Wilson and Tim-the-Tool-Man Taylor. I say no more.
2. In (very) limited cases, it used to be illegal. Colorado is probably the most classic example of one of the only states that actually did have a statewide ban. Rainwater harvesting wasn't outlawed in name, but due to interpretations of a complicated and antiquated set of laws governing the Colorado River known as the prior appropriations doctrine, water falling in Colorado was determined, by law, to already be owned by downstream users. But in 2016, CO passed legislation to legalize rainwater harvesting on a limited basis. Read more about Colorado's interesting story here.
3. In places where there are no codes or regulations on the books, it may be assumed to be illegal when it isn't. Untrained code inspectors may not know what to do with rainwater harvesting in absence of a code reference, so they may resist a permit when there's actually no law on the books to prohibit it. The good news is more and more states are adopting code with simple standards for non-permitted rainwater catchment systems. This not only helps to make regulators comfortable, it ensures safe installations and streamlines the process for homeowners, often with no permits required!
What Can We Do to Spread the Facts?
To conclude, I have a challenge for you.
1. First, don't be that guy (or gal...but honestly its usually a guy!) to post uninformed comments about rainwater harvesting being illegal.
2. If you do believe rainwater harvesting may be illegal where you live, take a moment to check your facts. Search your town, county, and state for laws. An easier approach may be to search for rebates and incentives. If you find your county or water agency is incentivizing rainwater harvesting, then you can be darned sure it isn't illegal. (If you do find a law on the books, send us the reference so we can keep this blog up to date!)
3. Now here's the meat of the challenge: go tell everyone you know that rainwater harvesting is good for the environment and actually encouraged in many places!