Rainwater Collection In Florida: Everything You Need to Know

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Did you know that per year, the estimated rainfall in Florida is between 40 and 60 inches? Sometimes you wish you could do more with rainwater than just watch as it travels down your gutters and into the lawn to be absorbed. Are you allowed to collect rainwater in the great state of Florida?

Not only can you legally collect rainwater in Florida, but you’re encouraged to with rebates and tax incentives. You can store water in cisterns, rain barrels, or rain gardens. And you can use the rainwater for tasks like cleaning your clothes or watering the lawn.

In this article, we’ll talk further about the rules for collecting and reusing rainwater in Florida, as well as which rebates might be available to you. You’re not going to want to miss it!

Are You Allowed To Collect Rainwater In Florida?

Collecting and recycling rainwater is an eco-friendly choice that many homeowners are interested in. In states like Florida where water demand can be higher due to hot temperatures, having your own source of renewable rainwater means that water facilities are under less pressure to supply water to residents.

You can also feel good about conserving water, something that everyone can afford to do. After all, according to the EPA, the average amount of water usage per day among Americans is 82 gallons. Weekly, the typical American family wastes a lot of water–around 180 gallons.

In Florida, you’re more than welcome to collect rainwater and reuse it as you see fit. Unfortunately, this practice isn’t yet legal across the entire U.S., although it’s becoming more common.

According to World Population Review, in the following states, rainwater collection is legal:

  • Alabama
  • Oklahoma
  • Arizona
  • Kansas
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Kentucky
  • New Jersey
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Washington

In these states, rainwater collection is not only legal, it’s encouraged:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • New Mexico
  • Nebraska
  • Missouri
  • South Carolina
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Maryland
  • New York
  • New Hampshire
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Montana

For the remaining states, collecting rainwater is not yet legal:

  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • North Carolina
  • Utah
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Ohio

How Do You Collect Rainwater?

Maybe you hadn’t realized that you could collect rainwater as a Floridian. But now that you know, you probably want to start! So what are your options for gathering and storing rain? You can use cisterns, rain barrels, or rain gardens. We’ll discuss all three rain collection methods below.

Cisterns

A cistern is the largest of the three storage vessels. A six-by-six-foot cistern is capable of storing up to 1,600 gallons of water. Cisterns are heavy in addition to being large, as they’re built from plastic, galvanized steel, or even reinforced concrete.

You can choose to submerge your cistern partially, put it fully underground, or get it installed above-ground. The cistern has a watertight lid. You or a technician will have to open the lid from time to time to drain the water and clean out the inside of the cistern.

Depending on where the rainwater comes from that enters a cistern, you might want to consider a pretreatment zone as part of your cistern installation. This will filter the water so it’s not dirty or otherwise full of potential contaminants.

According to HomeAdvisor, cistern installation averages $12,000. The cistern itself usually isn’t too expensive, costing anywhere from $70 to $250. So why is the installation so pricey?

Well, you might need excavation around your property, which costs between $50 and $200 a cubic yard. Remember that most cisterns require a water filtration system, though, and that’s anywhere from $1,000 to $4,200. Then you might have to pay to get your yard re-graded after installation, which is $15 a cubic yard. Plumbers will charge an hourly fee of $45 to $200 as well.

Further, depending on the size of your cistern and its desired placement, you might need permits before the excavation work can begin.

A large galvanized rainwater collection tank with a white PVC pipe from the roof positioned to drain into it sits outside a cabin in Australia with eucalyptus trees in the background
This rain barrel might be big enough to qualify as a cistern. It’s down under in Australia, where rainwater collection is not only encouraged; in some places it’s required! Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Rain Barrels

Your second option is a rain barrel (or several). The barrel goes beneath your downspout to collect rain from the roof before it runs off into the lawn. Screens over the opening of the barrel allow water in but not pests such as mosquitoes, which reproduce in standing water.

You can make a DIY rain barrel if you’re feeling crafty, or you can purchase one pre-assembled. Outfitting a spigot to your rain barrel will allow you to easily tap into that supply of water for maintaining your lawn.

HomeAdvisor, in the link above, mentions that installing a rain barrel that can store 100 gallons of water is priced between $120 and $1,600 depending on the complexity of the job. But most projects should fall in the lower range, unless you need to install gutters first, or you want to tie your rain barrel into a complicated irrigation system.

Rain Gardens

Your third option for collecting rainwater in Florida is a rain garden. These backyard gardens will limit water runoff, which can prevent yard erosion and ease the burden on municipal storm drains.

A rain garden diverts surplus rainwater from downspouts and the lawn into a depression in the ground. This depression is planted with resilient plants that can take up the extra water when it’s available, but still thrive in drought conditions. Read more about rain gardens here and here.

Monarda, also known as Bee Balm, performs well in rain gardens. As an added bonus, its nectar is food for not only bees, but hummingbirds! Photo by Melissa Burovac on Unsplash

What Can You Use Rainwater For?

Once you begin collecting rainwater around your Florida home, what can you use it for? All sorts of things, really! Here’s a list to inspire you.

Laundry

If you can redirect your rainwater flow to your washing machine, then the washer can use the recycled water to clean your family’s dirty clothes and linens every week. According to review resource Prudent Reviews, a non-Energy Star washing machine sucks up 19 gallons of water per load of laundry you wash.

Energy Star appliances are more efficient, requiring only 14 gallons per wash. By using rainwater with your Energy Star washer, your laundry room will be its most sustainable yet! 

Toilet Water

Although toilets use only around two gallons of water per flush, if you’re like most people and flush five times a day, that’s now around 10 gallons of water per person in your household. Repurpose the collected rainwater for your toilet.

Washing Your Pets

Do you bathe your pets using tap water? Chemicals like chlorine and sodium fluoride which are added to tap water can lead to skin dryness, itchiness, and irritation in your pets. Rainwater has none of these chemicals, making it an appealing choice for washing Fido or Fifi.

Happy planet, happy pets. Photo by Anthony Duran on Unsplash

Refilling The Pool

To beat the heat, many Florida homes have swimming pools. The hot sun can lead to water evaporation, and a day of splashing around the pool with the kids can also leave the water levels a little low.

Why not use the rainwater you’ve collected to refill the pool? It’s probably cleaner than what’s coming out of your backyard hose!

Cleaning Your Car

You can’t forego washing your car, but this task sucks up a huge amount of water. According to eco-friendly resource Earth 911, taking your vehicle through a car wash uses 15 to 85 gallons of water, which is quite a lot. Washing your vehicle with rainwater is a better choice for the planet. 

Watering Plants/Grass

You can also use your collected rainwater for tending to your garden or watering the grass when it begins to dry out. Of course, the rain garden option does that all by itself with no extra work from you. Talk about self-sufficient!

Does Florida Offer Rebates For Rainwater Collection?

It’s great to make eco-friendly decisions, but that’s not the only benefit you’d reap if you started saving rainwater in Florida. Here are several incentives to take advantage of today.

Orlando Rebate Program

In Orlando, the Orlando Utilities Commission or OUC offers a rebate for every cistern or rain barrel in your business or office. You’ll receive a rebate for $0.02 per gallon of water with a limit of $200.  

The cistern must be in-ground. You’d also need a proof of purchase or receipt on the cistern or rain barrel.

Manatee Rebate Program

The Manatee Rebate Program also has cistern incentives. Your cistern must be part of an in-ground irrigation system within the Manatee County Utilities Department’s radius. Your past record of water usage must reflect that you’ve gone through more than 8,500 gallons of water over six months.

Your home or commercial building must have been built before March 2003 as well. If you have any cross-connections or backflow devices, you would be ineligible.

This rebate earns you 50 percent off the costs of your cistern with a limit of $500. The costs must be documented.

Conclusion

Rainwater collection is highly encouraged in Florida and very much legal. You can do better for our planet and get some money shaved off through incentives by collecting rainwater in cisterns, barrels, or as part of a rain garden. We hope this article has inspired you to give it a try!

Erin Shine

Erin Shine

Founder | Attainable Home

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