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Regulations (See Incentives Below)

Rainwater harvesting often takes place in the urban environment. As a result, local municipalities have developed guidelines and ordinances to help citizens understand how to harvest rainwater. If you are planning to install a system, please read through the following to learn about regulations that might influence your plans or incentive programs that might help you pay for your system.

In/Near Washes
Use caution in using gabions that divert stream flows because development in a wash may require a Floodplain Use Permit from the City, and/or a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers.

In the Landscape
On Oct. 14, 2008, the City of Tucson Mayor and Council adopted a Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance, the first of its kind in the United States for commercial developments. Tucson requires commercial properties to use rainwater for 50 percent of site vegetation water budget for permits issued after June 1, 2010. With this, Tucson became the first city in the country to require rainwater harvesting for landscaping use. In addition to cisterns, the regulations allow berms and contoured slopes to be used to direct rainwater to trees and landscaped areas.

According to building codes, developers will have to submit a landscape water budget in a plan. The Development Standards are still being developed  but this agenda package for the Tucson Mayor and Council meeting, where the ordinance was adopted, explains the anticipated requirements.

Since February 1991, the Xeriscape Landscaping and Screening Regulations - Ordinance 7522 has required the use of drought-tolerant plants from a published list and limits non-drought tolerant vegetation to small "oasis" areas where turf may be used. This applies to new multifamily, commercial, and industrial development. Oasis areas for facilities are restricted to 2.5 percent of a site for commercial development and 5 percent for multifamily.

The City of Tucson encourages rainwater by allowing incorporation of rainwater harvesting elements in development designs to meet stormwater regulations requirements. They have created a handbook to help with technicalities and offsetting retention and detention needs.

Within the City of Tucson, regulations apply to cisterns and all plan submittals are reviewed for zoning compliance on an individual basis (no one-size fits all permit process). However, basically the cistern size determines where it needs to be placed in your designs and whether it will need a building permit.

Cisterns built within the city need to follow the Land Use Code placement design requirements for property line setbacks applicable to accessory structures according to cistern size as described in this memo. Any cistern with over a 2:1 height: width ratio or any cistern containing over 2000 gallons requires structural review and a building permit.

Case by case scenarios include, for instance, if a cistern has a connection with a roof drain, a method is needed to insure that an overflow of the cistern does not result in water being retained on the roof. Electrical wiring installation for pumps may require building code review or permitting or installation by a licensed contractor, but this is not always the case.

Curb Cuts
A curb cut is a process by which a small portion of the bank is removed to allow water to run out of its street watercourse into a water-harvesting basin in order to provide rainwater run-off to plant materials. 

Click here for information on how to apply for a permit, tips on design and informational description.

All curb cuts require a permit from the City of Tucson, Permits and Code Section, using a “Right-Of-Way Excavation Permit Application” in which designs, reviews and meetings will be required. Use these design guidelines provided by the City of Tucson.

Other Information
Unlike several states, there are no Arizona statutes against rainwater harvesting. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate rainwater harvesting systems, but recently provided a handbook on rainwater harvesting policy and infrastructure. See comparative regulations in other states.


A variety of incentives are available as identified below:

Tax Credit in Arizona
Through 2010, the State of Arizona encourages rainwater harvesting though statewide tax credit incentives for 25% of the system. Note that a misinterpretation of the tax credit used to only give the credit to greywater systems, but thanks to efforts by Rep. Steve Farley the tax credit can now also be used for rainwater harvesting systems, and it is now retroactive to January 1, 2007. No permit is needed for residential properties for these tax credits toward rainwater harvesting (different rules apply for the greywater credit for commercial properties).

Please visit and click on "credit pre-certification" on the lefthand side of the home page and click on gray water conservation tax credit.  The site includes general information and applications for corporations and individuals.

Marana - Metro Water
Metro Water District offers a $50 rebate when a resident installs a greywater or water harvesting system. Both systems capture water that is usually discarded so that it can be used for outdoor watering, thus reducing your regular water usage.

Arizona State Land Department
The Arizona State Land Department Forestry Division's Urban and Community Forestry Program’s Community Challenge Grant Program can fund the planting of trees in water harvesting earthworks, along with cistern-building and greywater-harvesting workshops.

Central Arizona Project
Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District Conservation Grant Program for water conservation grants up to $5,000 each available project. Projects such as a water-harvesting system for a community garden have been funded. 

PRO Neighborhoods: Pima County

PRO Neighborhoods is a grants and technical assistance program for local communities based in Pima County offering small grants ranging from $500 to $5,000 to groups working together to mobilize and build upon existing talents and resources within the community. 

City of Tucson
The City of Tucson offers a single family residential rainwater harvesting incentive/rebate program. If you attend a workshop, you become qualified for a rebate. More information about the program also is available by clicking here

Additional information on residential and business rebates and incentives, including for irrigation efficiency upgrades, please click here.



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