Can You Go to Jail for Collecting Rainwater?

Putting a bucket outside to catch water while it rains may not seem like a big deal, but in more than a dozen states it actually is. State legislatures established rules on catching rainwater and what you can and can’t use the water for. So, if you’ve built a rain barrel for your home, be sure to review local laws to make sure you’re in compliance and not accidentally doing something illegal. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, catching rainwater — or “rainwater harvesting” — can affect quality standards, public safety and water rights. Water rights are a type of interest that can be tacked onto real estate ownership when a property is close to a body of water. That means that the landowner has the right to use that body of water and any precipitation surrounding it. Some states mandate that all precipitation belongs to existing water rights owners, and rain flow needs to join its rightful water drainage. Can you go to jail for collecting rain? It depends on what your state allows. Alaska, for example, actually encourages rainwater harvesting, while it’s illegal to do so in Illinois. There are also states that permit it, but specify the uses of the water. Obviously, your gutter isn’t doing much harm, but people have actually landed in the slammer for collecting rainwater. That’s why it’s crucial that you check out the regulations in your particular state.