Is Collecting Rain Water Illegal in Florida?

illegal-rain-water-collectionEarlier this week we posted an article on collecting rain water. Much to our surprise, we got emails from Florida residents asking if it is illegal to collect rain water in our state.

We thought the question was a little crazy at first, just because it had never dawned on us that it might ever be illegal to collect rain water. However, after doing some research we did discover that there are some laws that make it illegal to collect rain water in some states.

For example, one Oregon resident was sentenced to 30 days in jail and paid a $1,500 fine after collecting rain water on his land. You can read the full story here.

There are several states where rain collection is restricted or illegal. It’s totally illegal, for example, in Oregon and Utah.

Some states require a permit before you can collect rain water. Laws are also changing in some states, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a thorny legal issue for some homeowners.

Some states swing in the opposite direction. In some states, certain types of new builds have to have rainwater collection systems, and some states even offer tax incentives to homeowners who adopt them.

Learning these things prompted us to double check Florida’s laws. Fortunately for Florida homeowners who want to collect rain water, we could not find any laws or statutes on the books.

However, every county is different, and the law does have nuances. For example, some counties have restrictions on how you may use the rain water or how you need to treat it.

The place to start is your county health department. To help our readers we’ve gathered up links for the health departments in each of the counties that we serve.

In addition to following health department requirements we do urge you to be safe when you are using your rainwater catchment system. Rainwater should usually be used as grey water for plants, not as potable drinking water.

Finally, remember that we’re not lawyers – we’re gutter contractors! Laws also do change so to be on the safe side if you’re going to collect rain water, check with your city and county officials first!

25 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    I’ve spent the past year researching the “legality” of rain water harvesting. So far I have personally checked 35 state government websites and the rules thereof. There are 0, that is no states in the US where it is “against the law” to collect rain water as a general state law. I have seen Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado change their laws in favor of rain water harvesting. There may very well be local ordinances that prohibit rain barrels, but that is the exception, not the rule. Colorado is the last holdout of archaic laws regarding rain and water rights. Those laws are not based on modern science. My blog has links to every state government I have checked and also links to others research of the info on the 15 states I have yet to check. There are lots of regulations regarding water in every state, Also if a person wants to set up their own private lake, of course there will be issues and laws. But that is yet another issue.

    • khym says:

      It’s not the legality of actually catching and holding the water..the regulations pertain to the use of such…
      Oregon regulates water use using “water right permits” the farmers have fighting this for years on how much and gets first rights to use water from creeks and rivers to irrigate.
      The State wants to mandate it instalation of water meters farms and charge us for its “Use”
      The man that got in trouble did not have state permits and the city downstream had “Rights” to the water from all rivers, creeks and tributaries feeding the city..
      This man tried for years to get “rights” and was denied his lands and ponds predated these regulations..but he still lost to the state.
      it is not illegal to catch the water it is illegal to use it without a permit because Oregon claimed all water and it’s uses in this State.

      • Daremyster says:

        If the man was collecting water from the gutters of his house or other buildings on his property there should not have been a problem unless the State could prove that he is using this as potable water.
        If he was diverting the water from a tributary running through his property then the State has every right. Did the man give credence to the fish down stream or to the person who is licenced by the State to take water from the stream, I know it makes no sense but it goes back to archaic law.

  2. Todd Dudkewic says:

    Thanks for the excellent and relevant link!

  3. john moll says:

    In Tampa fl there is a service charge for rain that falls on the roof of a home, collected or not.
    In my case it is $136.12 a year, collected by the Tax Collector. If not paid can result in a lien on the title to the property.

    There is pending a vote for another rain on roof assessment that will amount to $162.75 per year. If passed by City council on October 1, 2015 it will appear on the November Tax bill in 2016.

    I have installed retention ponds. infiltration trenches, rain gardens, vegetated driveways, mulched parking area and rain barrels to manage and keep roof rainwater on the property but the charge remains the same as if no rain water is captured and used on site.

    • Todd Dudkewic says:

      That’s great information–thank you for sharing! A vital point we missed.

    • Nancy says:

      Yall need to vote everybody out and start again with people who are not robbing you.

    • Kenneth Cormier says:

      Incredible. I’m gobsmacked.

    • Greg Pack says:

      So in essence it is a rain tax. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan repealed the Maryland “Rain Tax” after he was elected

    • Jane says:

      Okay, so you are saying you are taxed on rain that falls out of the sky and hits your roof? I absolutely do not believe this. It would be like being taxed on the sun that shines on your house. You have 0 control over it.
      I am a Florida native, and this job St seems ludicrous to me, even if it IS Tampa.

      • howard ollman says:

        even if it is TAMPA, i know exactly what you mean, i am down here in MIAMI DADE, there are a lot of insane things down here, you could own a shed for many years, gone thru hurricanes and major storms, and they will make you take them down because they are “unsafe”, or some crap like that. permits for everything, it is insane. all of it. i am about to place a well in, this should be fun. [they should all be on a funny farm, rain water illegal to catch, give me a break.]

        • Victoria says:

          If you check you will find that the people of Tampa do not own Tampa. It is a for profit corporation privately owned. Check out the corporate listing online. Of course, you have stupid taxes, they are making money. You might also be interested that most of the corporations that own towns (and almost all towns and cities are privately owned) have the right to pledge your home and property against a loan they decide to make. It is horrifying and being kept very quiet. Find out for yourself, don’t believe me, look it up!

          • Lucy D. Greek says:

            Look It Up Yourself? If you have the info and web sites why not post them? You have already done the research so share your efforts in getting the word out. That is how you will get people interested in an issue and cause them to look further.

          • Peter says:

            That is absolutely terrifying. I’m British and was under the mis-impression this was ‘Land of the Free’ At lest I now know why there were camera’s but no toll collection in Tampa when exiting (incredibly badly) sign [posted) road

      • Shaun says:

        Look it up for yourself it sounds absurd but yes there is a rain tax in Tampa and as far as the sun that shines on your roof they are starting to tax that as well or they are trying to pass an amendment to tax if you use solar power they have tried to word it to sound like it’s protecting people who do not use solar but in fact is a tax against people who use solar

        • Rick says:

          Yes, the part about the solar law here in Fla is true. They added it into the last presidential election (Trump vs Hillary). I voted for it not realizing what it really was till I was told later. The way they worded it was deliberate deception.

      • Rob Jo says:

        In Louisville KY there is a law that taxes the amount of rain water falling on your property for the purpose of building drainage……we live on the outskirts with zero drains and still have to pay the tax for zero services…..corruption abounds in water districts….quazi government and unaccountable to most of the populations….

  4. Chris Stovall says:

    It’s not technically a “Rain tax”, it’s a “storm water” tax. The city levies a tax to fund the building of storm water treatment systems. Since Florida’s ecosystem is so susceptible to damage from rainstorms washing the runoff of millions of lawns, golf courses, streets, highways, failed septic tanks, parking lots, etc. into our rivers and streams, they’ve actually “tried” to do the right thing and instituted serious regulations regarding the discharging of drainage ditches and whatnot into out bodies of water. A little fertilizer or insecticide on your yard may not seem like much, or blowing your grass clippings into the gutter; but multiply that by millions of citizens… The treatment can be anything from retention ponds to increased capacity at sewage treatment plants.
    The problem is the hodgepodge way municipalities implement these taxes. To the poster from Tampa, do they not have an exemption you can get for your retention pond? Jacksonville bases your tax on the amount of “nonpermeable” land you own. (i.e.your house, your driveway, anything that water runs off of instead of soaks into the ground). Retention ponds and the like sometimes can be claimed as exemptions to lower your tax.

    • Jodie says:

      Exactly! While on the surface it seems insane but the overall picture makes perfect sense. I hate paying all of the taxes just like everyone else but this is just another part of our infrastructure and it has to be paid for….unfortunately, it has to be paid for by the citizens.

    • Jeff White says:

      It’s a good idea to use either slow growing buffalo grass, or even better to use clover so there’s no grass to cut. I’ve heard this myth about rainwater, and I’ve seen no laws regulating it, and as far as using the water, I don’t think they can say anything about how you use it as long as the collector isn’t fixed to the property. That’s why unattached container houses are so attractive, besides their mobility when governments go askew and we have to vote with our feet. Let’s see them levy a rain tax on that!

    • Daniel says:

      Um
      Saying it’s not technically a rain tax it is a storm water tax.

      What’s the difference in rain or storm water..

      Rain storm water coming from sky same thing

  5. Jodie says:

    I was interested in the Oregon case and here is what I found. This man was not just simply catching rainwater. http://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/oregon-man-in-possession-of-13-million-gallons-of-illicit-rainwater

  6. mary says:

    So rainwater slowly causes damage to my roof. Do I have a right to go after storm water tax collected funds to also repair my roof when it needs repairs? After all, if i am found to control the rainwater that falls on my roof, thereby requiring me to pay a tax, then the Government must also be responsible for the rain that falls on my roof, therefore pay-up, when i need repairs for erosion in my yard, to my roof, to the foundation around my house, to the paint on my house etc. Have a nice day Big Government!

  7. mary says:

    So infrastructure is one thing, but what about Oregon, that fella owned something 170 acres, what infrastructure? Also I am sure most have heard of the earth ships in Colorado, off the grid sustainable living, most of whom were being forced/threatened to get on the grid. and they lived out in the middle of no where.
    Somebody definitely wants to keep an eye on all of us, this isn’t just about infrastructure.
    Anyway, seems like a legal premise is being set, the question is do we have a way to throw it back on the Government? If they want control fine, i’m in an up side down mortgage anyway, and my house is old, bring on the repairs to my home and property due to rain fall.

  8. Tom Macklin says:

    Technocally it’s not a Storm Water Tax. It’s a Storm Water Assessment. Much like other non Advolorum Assessments, the rate that’s assessed it not based on the value of thd property. Rather; it is the amount of impermeable surface by square footage on the assessed property. As a former Mayor of a small city in Florida, the problem I had with this when it was discussed and dismissed over a decade ago, was that there was no way to legitimately determine just how much run-off each property actually generated. You can’t measure or meter it, and it can rsin on one side of town and not the other. How do you FAIRLY determine a volume of run-off to assess the properly “owner”? You can’t, and so, you shouldn’t.

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