For folks who want to be sure of always having access to water, a rainwater collection system is a must-have. You can easily get dozens or hundreds of gallons of water from a good rainy day with the right setup, virtually ensuring you will always have this life-sustaining resource on hand.
But, as with all things, even this wholesome practice is becoming increasingly regulated by governments.
Have you ever wondered if it’s illegal to collect rainwater in Ohio? A quick search makes this a source of confusion for many residents of the Buckeye State. So, is it illegal to collect rainwater in Ohio?
No, it’s not overtly illegal to collect rainwater in Ohio. However, all facets of the process, from installation and material selection of the catchment system to plumbing hookups, use and more are all highly regulated by the Ohio Department of Health.
Some people believe that rainwater collection interferes with the natural allocation and use of groundwater, while others argue that it’s their right and purview as property owners or tenants.
All I know is that Ohio is a mess concerning this topic compared to most other states. In the rest of this article, I’ll help you figure out the legality of collecting rainwater in Ohio so you can orient yourself to the task. Brace yourself; it is going to be a doozy…
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Ohio?
It is not patently illegal to collect rainwater in Ohio, but there are so, so many regulations in place to “manage” every single element of the collection and use process.
The State of Ohio has strict regulations on the collection of rainwater by private citizens, labeling such activities and all the equipment support them as “private water systems,” a term you should familiarize yourself with.
Ostensibly, these regs are in place because private water systems can potentially impact the local environment and public health. Failure to comply with them can result in serious fines or legal issues.
Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) Chapter 3701-28 outlines the regulations for rainwater harvesting in residential and commercial properties.
Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?
In Ohio, the collection of rainwater is not illegal at the county level for any county I was able to find, but that is the least of your worries considering the state government stance.
But, the regulations and guidelines surrounding rainwater harvesting may still vary from county to county, adding yet another hoop of ruby-red tape to jump through.
It’s important for anyone considering collecting rainwater to research their county’s regulations on rainwater harvesting, too, not just the state’s.
In some cases, counties might also require permits for the collection of rainwater or place additional restrictions on how the collected water is used.
Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Ohio?
Ohio allows its citizens to harvest rainwater under most conditions so long as there is not a county or statewide ban on the practice, and so long as all of the many requirements for system installation and use are followed.
However, for rainwater harvesting to be legal, Ohio residents must comply with the state’s regulations detailing storage and collection, and that means you can’t use the water for just any purpose even if it was otherwise collected legally.
They must obtain a permit from the local authority or the Ohio Department of Health and fulfill all permit requirements prior to the start of collection.
Is There a Limit on How Much Rainwater You Can Collect in Ohio?
There are limits on the amount of rainwater that can be collected in Ohio. This generally depends on your property’s available surface area for collection, but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources allows collection up to 10,000 gallons without additional approval.
Not a concern for nearly any homeowner or renter, but something to keep in mind…
Ohio law additionally requires that the amount of collected rainwater does not impact the existing water system.
That means the system treats the flow of rainwater as separate from the portion of water that goes to storm sewers.
Additionally, the water collected, however it is dispensed, should not increase the risk of flooding, erosion, or other environmental issues in the area.
What Does Ohio Allow Citizens to Use Rainwater For?
Ohio residents can use harvested rainwater for mostly non-potable purposes unless you want to deal with hardcore purification mandates.
Suitable NP-purposes include irrigating plants, washing cars, flushing toilets, and other tasks that don’t require potable water.
Ohio law broadly permits using rainwater for outdoor & indoor purposes that don’t involve human consumption.
The State of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t recommend using collected rainwater for direct human consumption, even though harvested water is generally safe to drink.
Because of this, private water systems must employ what are known as continual disinfection systems. There is a lot to say on this topic and I am trying to keep this brief, so read up on it for yourself here.
Does Ohio Require Special Equipment or Inspection for Rainwater Collection?
Yes, they sure do. Ohio has specific standards regarding the style, type and material of every component in a rainwater collection system, right down to the number of connections you have and how many people it can serve in a certain number of days.
Between the OEPA and ODH, there is an administrative code that delineates the laws and guidelines for every single step, bolt and procedure of rainwater harvesting.
Sadly, every Ohio resident who intends to collect rainwater has to get a ‘Water Use and Reporting Permit’ or another administrative authorization to collect and store rainwater for even non-potable uses.
The State requires the installation of self-regulating valves, rain gauges, water level indicators, and overflow mechanisms to meet safety standards.
Moreover, the collection tanks must get inspected periodically, and permit requirements include adherence to standards for size of the storage container, along with any necessary disinfection treatment to ensure the safety of the harvested water for its intended purpose. There are even specifications for dispersing excess overflow.
Does Ohio Offer Incentives for Rainwater Collection?
Ohio currently doesn’t have any state-level financial incentives to encourage its citizens to collect rainwater.
Although many states and municipalities in the United States now offer various incentives to promote rainwater harvesting, Ohio has yet to establish an incentive or rebate program for rainwater use.
It is possible that some counties, cities or towns do offer rebates or incentives, but I couldn’t find any.
But do keep your eye on the prize: if you are an Ohio resident you can still save money by collecting rainwater for personal use, whatever it is, beyond just reducing their dependence on the city or well water supply.
Bottom Line: Is Ohio a Good State for Rainwater Collection?
I hate to say it, but Ohio is a pretty awful state for rainwater collection concerning the legal side of the house, though the practical side fares somewhat better: with moderate rainfall amounts ranging from 30 to 40 inches annually in most regions, you can depend on and collect harvested rainwater for much of the year.
But despite this ample supply, the state’s regulations for rainwater collection are nothing short of odious.
You’ll have to dance like a little puppet at every phase of the selection, installation and permitting process, and that means wasting more time and more money all because the Government Nannies don’t trust you to use your own good sense.
Considering that Ohio is something of a policy and political “weathervane” for the rest of the country, all I can do is hope that this tendency of overregulation doesn’t take hold elsewhere!
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