Watch CBS News

Is It Really Illegal To Collect Rain Water In Oregon?

KPIX 5 Morning Weather Anchor Roberta Gonzales answers the questions you never get to ask on-air.

Q: Roberta, we saw you collect rain water and so do we!  Our barrel is filled to the brim! Denise and Freddie Woodward, Livermore
A: Good for you! All that water could be used for dampening outside plants until our next possible rain on Monday!

Yesterday's rainfall produced so much runoff from Denise and Freddie's patio, they were able to capture enough water to fill a 55 gallon barrel and more! Checkout their set up in their Livermore backyard!

rain barrel 2
(Denise and Freddie Woodward)

Meanwhile, I came across something completely dumbfounding! A viewer wrote to me and said collecting rain water in the state of Oregon is illegal. I couldn't believe it, so I started fact checking. Well, the statement is true and false!

According to Oregon newspaper the Mail Tribune, back in 2012 an Oregon resident (Mr. Harrington) was sentenced to 30 days in jail for "unauthorized use of water." What appears to have happened, is the resident built dams across channels of public water running across his property. He collected 40 acre feet of water (enough to fill 20 Olympic size swimming pools!) and stocked his new reservoirs with ducks, boats and fish for recreational fishing.

So the folklore began, "it is illegal to collect rain water in Oregon." Not true. The bottom line is, you must have a water rights permit to use public water in Oregon, but exceptions are in place for the general public to capture rain water in a barrel, bucket, tub or rain gauge. So for most living in Oregon, it is legal to collect rainwater.

Other states maintaining rainwater collection laws include Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

These laws don't make it illegal to collect rainwater; they outline allowable uses for rainwater and establish tax credits for people who invest in rainwater collection systems.

Do you have a question or observation you would like to share with me? I would love to hear from you! Please email

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.