Can You Collect Rainwater in Washington?

Washington is well known for its weather, and not in a good way. While the official nickname for the State is the Evergreen State, its most famous city, Seattle, has earned itself the nickname of Rain City.

Due to this, one of the first things that you think of when you hear the word Washington is rain. So, it is understandable that you might consider collecting rainwater if you live in Washington.

Can You Collect Rainwater in Washington

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what is meant by collecting rainwater, whether you can do this in Washington, and why you would do this. So keep on reading to find out more!

What is Meant By Collecting Rainwater?

First things first, let’s take a look at what is meant by collecting rainwater. Collecting rainwater is an activity that is more commonly known as rainwater harvesting.

As the name suggests, this activity is a practice of collecting water that has fallen from the sky while it was raining. In particular, collecting rainwater tends to involve collecting rainwater that has fallen off of structures, such as the roofs of buildings.

Traditionally, rainwater harvesting would include gathering the rainwater that has run down the roof of a building and into the gutters.

The water from the gutters will then be redirected to a storage tank, where the water will sit until it is needed for use in the future. Essentially, rainwater harvesting allows you to gather rainwater into a large receptacle for future use. 

One of the most common receptacles used to collect rainwater is a rain barrel. As the name suggests, a rain barrel is a large barrel that is used to collect rainwater.

These barrels will usually be positioned next to the down pipe on your home’s guttering. So, instead of the water draining onto the floor, it will drain into the barrel instead, where you will be able to store it.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at if you can do this in Washington.

Can You Collect Rainwater in Washington?

So, now that you know what collecting rainwater is, let’s take a look at if you can do this in Washington State. The exact rules will depend on the region of Washington that you live in, but in most areas of Washington, you can collect rainwater.

In fact, a lot of areas of Washington actually encourage people to do this. But this hasn’t always been the case. 

Rain barrels have always been available for purchase in Washington, just like they are available for purchase in many other areas of the USA. However, for a long time, you could purchase a rain barrel, but it was against the law to actually use it.

In fact, up until 2009 it was illegal to use a rain barrel to collect rainwater across Washington State.

The laws surrounding the collection of rainwater are often very confusing, so let’s take a look at if it is legal to collect and store rainwater in Washington State.

Is it Legal to Store Rainwater in Washington State?

As we have mentioned, prior to October 12th 2009 it was completely illegal to collect rainwater in Washington State. Despite the fact that the State had been selling rain barrels for many years.

The collection of rainwater had remained illegal in Washington for many years due to old time water laws that were implemented in semi-arid Western States. 

In many countries across the Globe, historic laws that are extremely outdated still remain in place, and this is what likely occurred with the rainwater harvesting laws in Washington State.

Can You Collect Rainwater in Washington

However, in 2009 a review by the Department of Ecology saw this law reversed. Suddenly, in many areas of Washington it became legal to harvest the rainwater that runs off the roofs of buildings.

This law finally allowed many people in Washington to use the rain barrels that they had owned for many years.

The primary reason for this reversal was to aid storm management, and ecologically help home irrigation systems.

But, when the law was reversed it was acknowledged that there could be a legal U-turn at any point if this practice started to be harmful for Washington State. However, more than 10 years after this law was first reversed, there has been no need to change this decision.

It is important to note that laws do differ across the State. So, if you plan on harvesting rainwater, it is important to check the laws for the area of Washington where you live. 

Why Would You Collect Rainwater?

Finally, let’s take a look at why you might decide to collect rainwater. There are actually quite a few reasons why this is a good idea, here are just a few examples:

Reduce Water Bills

One of the main reasons why people choose to collect rainwater is because it reduces their water bills. Essentially, rainwater is free, so if you collect rainwater you are getting access to water that you are not having to pay for.

This rainwater can then be used for a number of different activities, including landscaping, washing the car, and even flushing the toilet.

Supply Nutrients to Plants

Rainwater is also better for your plants than water that comes from the faucet. Rainwater is filled with nutrients that filtered water doesn’t contain, which means that your plants are likely to be healthier if you use water from your rain barrel to water your plants.

Provides Naturally Soft Water

Finally, rainwater is naturally soft water. As it has had minimal contact with anything on Earth, rainwater doesn’t tend to have any magnesium or calcium in it.

This means that rainwater is better to use when cleaning things because you can use fewer detergents, but get the same results.


In short, yes, you can collect rainwater in Washington. It was illegal to harvest rainwater in Washington State up until October 2009. But this law was reviewed, and ultimately rainwater harvesting was legalized. 

Thank you for reading! 

Mike Noren