As a California resident, you’re more than familiar with droughts and water shortages. Maybe you’ve thought about installing a rainwater collection system to maintain your vegetable garden or even considered capturing water for indoor uses such as toilets and washing machines.

Is it legal to collect rainwater in California? So, your Uncle Harvey told you it’s against the law to collect rainwater in California without a permit. Is he correct? Nope, that’s old news! In 2012, California passed the Rainwater Capture Act, allowing the harvest of rainwater from runoff roofs, parking lots, roads, and other impervious surfaces. No permit is required.

Rainwater collection systems. Collection systems range from simple and relatively inexpensive to complex and costly. For the average homeowner, the easiest and most cost-effective option is a rain barrel.

Rain Barrel
You must comply with all manufacturer instructions when installing your rain barrel system, but installation is relatively straightforward in general terms. Place the barrel under a gutter to capture water flowing off your roof. However, regulations vary from county to county, making things a wee bit tricky with this simple setup. For instance, Los Angeles County requires a screened inflow opening and a spigot or a hose; San Diego County states barrels must have been purchased after January 1, 2018. You get the idea. Check with the county before proceeding.

Harvested rainwater is ideal for watering your garden as it’s free from fluoride and low in chloramine and sodium. However, water usage from your rain barrel may also be subject to local regulations. For example, some counties allow use only for irrigation, while others also permit car washing. Rain barrel water is not suitable for drinking or any household use.

Other legal catchment systems, including those that produce water for household use, may involve electrical and plumbing work as well as soil excavation and structural work. They include:

Rainwater Capture System for Other Outdoor Non-potable Uses Underground Capturing

Rainwater Capture System for Indoor Non-potable Use

These systems require professional installation as well as plumbing, electrical, and building permits and, most likely, zoning reviews. Remember to consult your plumbing professional about any rainwater capture systems more complex than a rain barrel.

Tax Credits and Incentives. California’s Proposition 72 Rainwater Capture Tax Break exempts rainwater collection systems installed from property tax assessment on or after January 1, 2019. While the state does not offer incentives, here’s a list of local areas with incentive programs.

● San Diego Rain Barrel Rebate Program
● St. Helena Water Conservation Rebates
● Sacramento River-friendly Landscaping: Rain Garden Program
● Palo Alto Rebate Program
● Oakland Rain Barrel Program
● Long Beach Lawn to Garden Incentive program
● NAPA Valley Program
● Monterey
● Santa Rosa RWH and Graywater System Rebate
● Santa Monica RWH
● Calistoga

SoCal Plumbers