Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Massachusetts?

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Collecting rainwater is a great way to conserve water use and prevent storm runoff but is it legal to do in Massachusetts?

In the Commonwealth, not only is it legal but the state provides plenty of information to encourage and help residents set up their own rain barrels. Rain barrels can be used to collect rainwater from a home’s roof through the gutter system. While it’s not encouraged to drink rainwater, you can use it for your garden, lawn, car washing or other outdoor chores.

According to, during the summer months watering lawns and gardens can typically make up to 40% of your household water use. When western Massachusetts is under a drought warning, lawn watering is the first thing to be restricted. However, if you have collected rainwater, you can use that instead of municipal water.

All it takes to fill one rain barrel is just 1/4 inch of rainfall on your roof. That amount of water can be used on a 200-square-foot garden.

Where can you get a rain barrel in Massachusetts?

Many towns offer rain barrels through annual sales but there are also several vendors on state contracts. Two Massachusetts rain barrel companies to be considered are Boston Building Resources at 100 Terrace St. in Boston and Aaron’s Rain Barrels in Leominster.

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission offers discounted rain barrels through the Great American Rain Barrel Company but has been unable to provide them over the last two years due to supply shortages. The commission hopes to return to the program next year. Check with your town to see if they can help with getting a rain barrel.

Credit: Springfield Water and Sewer Commission

You can also make your own rain barrel out of a 55-gallon drum that has previously been used to ship food products. Do not use a barrel that was used to ship toxic chemicals. The state provides safety tips on how to make your own rain barrel and how to properly install one.

Where are there rainwater collection restrictions?

Several states have restrictions on collecting rainwater: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. In Kansas and North Dakota you must have a permit to collect rainwater. All other states allow residents to collect rainwater.

Why do some states restrict water collection?

Since water availability varies greatly throughout the U.S., each state needs to adjust its water use practices based on its climate. According to WWR, most states follow the reasonable use doctrine to determine restrictions; the doctrine states that “anyone who has a right to the water can reasonably use it for their own benefit as long as it doesn’t restrict the rights of others to use it as well.”

The main reason some states restrict collection is that too much rainwater harvesting can disrupt the cycle of rainfall seeping back into the earth. It is recommended to check your state’s laws regarding water use for further details.

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