oy! this topic again in my life, but I'm hoping this time to nail it and in the future be able to answer all questions about it succinctly:
someone says to me: "you can't harvest rainwater! that's illegal by washington state law. and even if they turn a blind eye to it now, if they ever want to fine you in the future..."
yes, people collect rainwater everywhere, and yes the city of seattle even catches it to flush toilets. what do i tell the person with the quote above??? what exactly is the state law? do cities or counties just opt out of it?
Suppose somebody moves to colorado in 1895 and buys a million acres or dry land. Then they sell off chunks, but they say "I'm selling you the land, but not the water that falls on the land - because that water flows downstream to where I have an ag thing going on."
Sometimes governments do something similar because they are trying to put together enough water for people in cities.
It starts to get really wacky. But in the end, there are places where you are not allowed to capture the water that runs off of your roof.
I found this page on rainwater catchment in the seattle area. There is an email address at the bottom of the page and I sent an email asking about legality in washington state. Let's see what happens ...
"Hi Paul, I've heard about this before too, but am not familiar enough with the legalities of rainwater harvesting and practical legal application o to be shed any light on the subject. I'm cc'ing a few of our staff who may know more on the subject. Thanks for visiting the Water and Land Resources' Web site."
I just received two emails from Greg Rabourn at king county:
Hi Paul, Sorry about my delay in responding. I have been out. It was never the intent of the law to cover rain barrels. They have resolved this issue and residential scale collection is not illegal. Feel free to start collecting.
A slight clarification, some legal jurisdictions are going ahead and getting an official water right from Ecology just to remove any doubt people might have about the legal status of having a rain barrel. City of Seattle is one example.
I've never heard of any legal issues with rain barrels before. My problem with them has always been that they collect water off of toxic roof materials. Many roofs are made of asphalt shingle which as we know are made of petrol products we shouldn't eat. Lots of roofs have lead flashing in some areas. Roofs have aluminum flashing and copper flashing and sometimes all three along with toxic calking materials and roofing tar itself.
I know rain barrels conserve water, keep the well from running dry and lower your water bill if you live in the water district and get your water pumped from the city but I wouldn't use one for anything but maybe washing a vehicle maybe or if it was the only water I had perhaps. I've also seen them rot the corner boards and siding off of people's house due to all that moisture being kept so close to the building, especially on the less well lit parts of the house.
John Meshna (owner)
Blue River LLC
1195 Dog Team Road
New Haven, Vt 05472
If a person were really interesting in collecting rainwater and had a few extra dollars, the simplest thing to do would be to collect some clean (after the first hour of rain, say) water and take it in to some lab that specializes in rainwater. First, ask them how to collect it properly (they may want it in glass, which is quite stable). Then tell them your worries and ask them to test it for the things your roof/area is likely to be contaminating the water.
I guess it all depends on where you live. Here in New Mexico not only is it legal, it's encouraged and the city I live in has a rain barrel rebate program. I'm just using the harvested rain water for the garden at this point. But, with some more storage capacity I could consider other uses.