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Los Angeles water harvesting laws


Los Angeles is known for droughts and water shortages, which has led to a number of laws dictating how water can be used. At the same time, these laws have recently been partially relaxed to allow residents to freely collect rainwater to reduce the state’s reliance on potable water for showers, gardening and other similar ventures.

Rainwater Capture Act
The Rainwater Capture Act of 2012 [2012 California Stats. ch. 537 section 2] adds an addendum to the SWRCB’s, or State Water Resources Control Board’s, control of water. Residents are now encouraged to use cisterns and rainwater collection kits to increase the amount usable water that they have on hand.

This new law was made so that California could better meet its “20×2020 goal.” The goal is to reduce the state’s potable water demand by at least 20 percent by 2020.

Prior to Act
Before the Rainwater Capture Act of 2012, residents could only collect rainwater if they received a permit from the SWRCB. Under the California Water Code Section 1200, residents and businesses who did not receive a permit could be penalized for misusing and illegally collecting water that legally belongs to the state.

Every Los Angeles resident is now relieved from this permit, which allows you to collect rainwater that falls off your roof. Most cisterns and full rainwater collection kits can collect several hundred gallons of water or more at a time.

Amount of Water
Since Los Angeles is commonly plagued by drought, you may be wondering if collecting rainwater is useful. Even during a drought, you should easily be able to collect 70,000 to 80,000 gallons of water with a proper collection kit.

Most homeowners will find that they can replace 30 to 60 percent of their water needs with a good collection kit.

Though residents are capable of freely collecting rainwater from their roofs, there are some restrictions that you should be aware of. Attempting to collect rainwater that has already drained into any drain system or channel is still illegal. You also cannot collect water that has previously been put to use.

This will not affect most residents, but the other major restriction might. The SWRCB previously demanded permits for rainwater collection to ensure that residents and business owners don’t unreasonably waste the water as according to the California Water Code Section 1201. Anyone who wastes the water or puts it to non-beneficial use can still be penalized by the SWRCB.

The current Rainwater Capture Act makes the collection of rainwater completely optional, but it’s a beneficial act that every resident and business owner should take advantage of.

The major and personal benefits are that you will be able to significantly reduce your reliable on potable water, which will decrease your water bill. It will also reduce the likelihood of this water collecting toxins and adding them to the nearby water supply.

Los Angeles residents are now legally able to collect rainwater that falls from their roofs without having to face a penalty, which is a major boon if you want to save money and always have water ready when you need it. There are some restrictions on how this water can be collected and used, but the restrictions are easy to abide by and should be obvious to residents who are used to the current water restrictions and laws.

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