Arizona Off Grid Laws: An In-Depth Guide

Arizona is often touted as one of the best places to live off-grid. While the state does have plenty of cheap land and sunlight for off-grid solar, living off grid in Arizona isn’t easy.

Not only do you have to contend with an arid, inhospitable climate, but many rules and regulations may make it difficult or illegal to go live off-grid.

Want to know more about living off the grid? Read:

Is Living Off-Grid Legal in Arizona?

Off-grid living is technically legal in Arizona. State laws even encourage some off-grid systems. However, off grid living is highly regulated. You will need a permit for almost everything you want to install or build on your property. Further, some local laws might make living completely off-grid legally impossible.

Arizona  Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living

In all states, local zoning laws ultimately determine whether it is legal to live off-grid.

Arizona’s zoning laws tend to be very relaxed outside of urban areas and shouldn’t have many legal issues with going off grid.

In urban areas, though, you may not be able to go entirely off grid because of Fire Ordinances, which require running water at a certain pressure. Some cities may also require you to connect to the municipal sewage system if it is located near your property.

Off-Grid Electricity in Arizona

Off-grid electricity is legal in Arizona. There are permit requirements, but they are generally easy to get for solar systems. However, be sure you look at local regulations about battery storage and permit requirements.


In most places in Arizona, you will be required to get a permit for your off-grid solar system. The permitting process for small systems is very quick and easy. You will need more documentation to obtain a permit for a more extensive system and might need an inspection. It is also usually legal to install your own solar system in Arizona.

However, Arizona is one of the worst states when it comes to grid-tied solar power. Power companies charge fees of about $50 per month simply for having solar panels and increased electricity fees for people who have solar panels. These additional fees are being challenged in court as discriminatory, but it might be a while before Arizona becomes a friendly state for grid-tied solar.

Also Read:

Off-Grid Water

Because it is a desert state, it isn’t surprising that Arizona has some of the strictest laws regarding water. In many cities, it is illegal to go completely off-grid with water: local fire code may require you to connect to the municipal water supply.

Even if you can legally go off grid with water in Arizona, expect it to be costly. Many people end up hauling water to their property. Not only is the hauled water itself a significant expense, but it requires gasoline and time to drive to water sites.

Surface Water

Under the 1919 Arizona Surface Water Code, all people must get a permit before using any surface water, including surface water, on their own property. Generally, it is very difficult to get surface water rights in Arizona.

You may be able to find a property (at a steep cost) that already has surface water rights attached to it. However, if you do not put that water to “beneficial use,” you can lose the water rights attached to the property.

Can I Build a Pond on My Property in Arizona?

You must get a permit before building a pond on your property in Arizona. In some areas, getting a permit for a pond can be very difficult to obtain.

You might find it easier to install underground rainwater cisterns, a practice that doesn’t require a permit in many areas. Even when a permit is needed, it is generally easy to obtain.

Well Water

Arizona law divides the state into Active Management Areas (AMAs). In these areas, you do not need a permit to drill a well with a maximum pump capacity of 35 gallons per minute and will remove no more than ten acre-feet per year. There are also some restrictions on how the water can be used, such as irrigating only up to 2 acres. You will need to get authorization from the ADWR before drilling.

If your well doesn’t meet the exemption requirements and is located in an AMA, you will likely have a tough time getting a permit. Water rights are determined by historic use or “grandfathered rights.” You can find a map of groundwater rights here.

Outside of AMAs, there are few groundwater restrictions. You can remove as much water as you want so long as the water goes to beneficial use. You can read an overview of Arizona’s residential groundwater rules here.

Luckily, the law does make exceptions for certain wells. It is exempt if your well has a pumping capacity of 35 gallons a minute or less. There are restrictions on how the water can be used, such as for residential uses and irrigating only up to 2 acres of land. If you want to use water for non-residential purposes, you are limited to 10 acre-feet water per year. Even if your well is exempt under the law, you must still file an application with the ADWR before drilling.


Rainwater harvesting is legal in Arizona, even for potable water (when building codes are met). Many areas actively encourage rainwater harvesting and offer financial incentives.

Graywater Recycling

Graywater recycling is legal in Arizona. Various financial incentives are available for installing greywater systems; some counties even require them for new residential construction.

The law defines gray water as “wastewater that has been collected separately from a sewage flow, and that originates from a clothes washer or a bathroom tub, shower or sink, but that does not include wastewater from a kitchen sink, dishwasher or toilet.” The water can be used for irrigation on your own property. You will need a permit, and there are design and use regulations to follow.

Also Read:

Sewage and Waste Removal

One of the most significant legal obstacles you might encounter when going off-grid in Arizona is waste removal. Some areas may require you to connect to the municipal sewage system if it is located nearby. However, in remote places, the law is generally very relaxed. It even mentions explicitly some alternative systems, which makes it easier to get a permit than in states where the law is vague.

Before getting a permit for any onsite sewage treatment system, you must have the site investigated. Only then can you start the permitting process for your system. There are strict rules about where sewage systems can be put on your property, so it is recommended that you get your sewage permit before you get your building permit.

Compost Toilets

Compost toilets are legal in Arizona. They can even be used as your only means of sewage treatment, but only in specific situations, such as if a limited water supply prevents you from using flush toilets.

If you don’t have septic, you must have an approved graywater recycling system for dealing with other wastewater from your home.

To legally use a compost toilet, you’ll need to get a permit. All wastewater from the bathroom must be dispersed in a trench or bed that meets specific regulations. You can read the details of the law here.

Also Read:


Outhouses (called “earth pit privies” or “vault toilets”) are legal in Arizona. However, they are usually only permitted in certain situations, such as when septic tanks are not feasible. Before you can legally build an outhouse on your property, you’ll need to have a site inspection and get a permit.

Also Read:

Other Off-Grid Laws in Arizona

RVs and Tiny Homes

Arizona is one of the friendliest states for tiny homes. They are allowed in multiple types of zoning. Under the law, homes between 200 and 400 square feet are considered tiny homes. They generally must meet the same building codes as other residential homes, though the requirements for some things (like insulation amounts and ceiling heights) are more relaxed. 

When it comes to living in an RV in Arizona, though, the laws are much stricter. They are only allowed in areas zoned for mobile homes and RVs. You won’t be able to get a certificate of occupancy for your home until you have a place to park it.

Alternative Building Materials

Arizona is very progressive in terms of alternative building materials. Building codes specifically allow materials such as earth ships, rammed earth, straw bales, and adobe. The laws vary county-by-county, so you’ll still have to check with the local government and get the necessary permits first.

Do you live off grid in Arizona? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.

Your Vital Information, Organized and Ready!

Get our Emergency Binder.

Instant Download. No Ads.

emergency binder

Comprehensive, easy-to-use Emergency Binder

Effortlessly populate your binder: type your information into our easy-to-use PDF, save a digital copy for easy access, and print a copy for physical backup.

It couldn’t be easier. There’s no confusion or headaches. Just clarity and peace of mind.

Learn More

Leave a comment

  1. I lived in Cochise County out of Douglas off grid for about 3 years. Never saw any inspectors. Had a 27′ trailer. Dug septic using a barrel. Also dug down about 5 ft and hit ground water. Even had I played by their rules there weren’t many at all. And pretty lax. On the other hand county cops pull anyone not from around there over. Had the place sold to a dark coupe for 35k when they were pulled over and thought they were being profiled. Had friends that at first would come help me but after the first couple times of being harassed they quit coming around. After trailer burnt down one night just gave up on the place.

  2. Hi, I bought an acre in Meadview, Mohave County. What would I need to do to be able to live in a RV trailer, with composting toilet, and solar panels to be all legal? Having water brought in till I can afford a well.


  3. I am looking at homes with acreage in Apache County with most being off-grid. What does Apache County require when purchasing an already built and lived in straw-built home on acreage with owned solar, septic, and coop-water well? Or a home with solar and septic but is haul water, what is the cost for haul water and can a well be drilled and for what price? Thanks, I appreciate any insight you can offer.

    • I may be late in replying…

      Provided all necessary permits were obtained, you should have no issues.
      Co-op wells are usually a $200 to $300 buy in, which covers first year. Subsequent years, $100. You typically need to haul the water yourself unless the co-op includes delivery.
      Wells in the area are typically 250′ minimum, most that I’ve seen are 350′ to 425′ but have heard of some going much deeper.
      For a well, well house, piping, electrical connections and a pump expect to pay $35k to 40k.

  4. Need advice…I’m looking to buy less than 30 acres and build a camp site, glamping or such with horse. What County would be best? I would prefer to buy water or collect rain, instal solar power, build septic or grey water treatment septic and out house. What would be the best location, County? Thank you

  5. Maybe someone will see this and give me an answer in Apache county can a person divert Rain run off water to where it backs up on the public road and hinders one from using their driveway ?

  6. Hello,

    Is anyone familiar with Wellton AZ laws for going off grid? Or building alternative home such as earthbags or Adobe? Is there anyone willing to help in exchange for the help back? Or is there an affordable company to hire that helps?

  7. Having no choice but to go completely off grid due to homelessness (not vagrancy) and trying to find some information resources for yavapi county. Any help, helps!

  8. Went off grid almost a year ago in Mohave county and had a septic installed on my acre. My question is, does anyone know how to apply for an address?? I live in my RV, is that also legal? Thanks in advance if anyone can help! : )

    • I believe once you get your septic signed off you can apply for an address I believe you get that at the Post Office but the Planing Department will help you. Once you get your address you apply for a renewable yearly RV permit around $250 per year
      I own property @ Greenwood Ranch in Hackberry and am working on getting a Septic

      • I am looking for someone to install a septic in Mohave county – did you find anyone? I read where someone had it done for under $5k Ive been quoted almost $15,000 I am trying to find someone cheaper They want $1500 just for the perc test! thanks

    • From my understanding, living in your rv in Mohave county is not legal unless your rv is in a designated rv park. Septic system requires permit in Mohave County.

  9. noname; Looking in navajo county does anyone know if there r any strict zoning laws there for a small tuff shed cabin structure

    • As for the research I’ve done. Navajo county does not allow for a shed to livable structure conversion, best to call them but the county states that they won’t issue permit or occupancy in these structures.

  10. I just bought a tiny home (around 300 sq ft) in Ash Fork but the guy didn’t have any permitting…who would be best to talk to to see what we need to do next to make sure this house is legal and what to do to build a new house

  11. Is anyone familiar with alternative homes (ideally an earthship) in a rural zoning pinal county, south of maricopa? Was told when I purchased the land that rammed earth was okay but having so much trouble getting more information from the county.

  12. Anyone in ashfork north of the 40 living off grid, have 12×32 shed to cabin no water plumbing electric what permits needed

    • You need all county permits to be in the clear, I just bought 2 /50 acres parcels that area and in installing a complete solar power station with water treatment system and Septic system, I will be able to supply electric and water for all my needs…..

  13. Question!
    I have a parcel of land off-grid (way, way off grid) with an 18′ x 20′ rammed earth structure on it. There is no plumbing of any kind. I bring in my own drinking water, and use rainwater catchment for dishes/shower. Waste is taken care of camping style, with a shovel and a hole. Being there is basically “glamping”.
    So here’s the question:
    If I were to sell the property, is the rammed earth structure legally considered a dwelling/residence? Or am I simply selling land with a very strong outbuilding on it?

    • I’d be more worried about the lack of sewage treatment than the legality of the dwelling. You’ll have to check with the local laws though. Annoyingly, each county is different.

    • It’s considered unimproved land with an out building and you must disclose whether or not you pulled a permit to build the outbuilding and show a schedule of all the inspections and sign offs from the county building inspector and a certificate of occupancy.
      I would be interested in learning more about this property…

  14. I’ve lived off-grid happily in Arizona, off and on, since 1994. Built a strawbale home with rainwater harvesting, solar, and compost toilet in 94, and had few hassles with Cochise County, though they were threatening to increase code requirements when I left. Sold in 2006. Lived in an RV from 2016 til 2021, then bought another strawbale with rooftop rainwater harvesting and solar in Pima County. Only problem now: finding an insurance company to insure my house.

    • Did Cochise County officials allow you to have composting toilet as your only sewage treatment or did you have to have a septic tank/municipal sewage hookup as well?

    • I lived in Pima County from 73-86 and would like to get back. I’ve been looking at property near Sierra Vista (cochise county) because of their owner/builder out out option. My preference would be Pima County but how in the world did a strawbale get built? Can you still build one?

  15. Apache County is like most but you can build up to 200 square feet without a permit. Off grid electric is common with local Co ops to help build and provide advice. Rain catch is also common with heavy monsoons to provide plenty in season but strict rules on ground water and lots of legal fights and schemes on local water Co ops. I have a successful part time off grid property and have avoided most of the pitfalls.

    • Many areas in apache County now require permits, they are very understanding that some realtor did not disclose, I bought there 6 years ago and am now getting hit for permits , you even need one for travel trailer if you plan to live in it. Many people have moved in and the county wants some $$

    • Where Exactly are you I’m interested in because I’m trying to do the same thing and I really don’t know how to so I’m trying to find out as much of information as possible thank you so much

    • Steven I live in Apache county and got 15 years the run off water has crossed the road and onto vacant land it was bought and the pit a house right in the natural drainage they sense put up a berm to where the water backs up on the public road and hinders my driveway is this legal ?

      • Actually what they’re doing is not legal. Az days all natural water flows are not to be disrupted, as to not hinder it natural course. The way around it would be a diversion berm, but it must be placed in a way that the surface water will still flow to its original destination as I f no berms where in place.

  16. Pima County is SUPER strict. Best bet is to follow the codes and pull all needed permits. They WILL NOT hesitate to drop the ax on ANYONE for ANY infraction.

    • Thanks for the insight! It’s also probably worth noting that, even if a county isn’t currently strict, it doesn’t meant that they won’t drop the ax on you later. Better to be compliant from the get-go than deal with hellish fines later on IMO.

    • I live off grid in Pima county. It’s doable, but they are probably the most restrictive county in the state AND they have the highest fees. To live full time on any rural homestead (RH) zoned and undeveloped land you must first pay their “impact fee”, which is currently >$8000, which is the highest in the state. That includes living in an RV. The fee alone makes it unaffordable as it almost doubles the cost of raw, remote desert land. That doesn’t include any permit fees for septic, solar etc. Cost for well drilling is $30,000+ depending on depth which varies from 350ft-800ft. Cost for septic runs around $6k. You don’t have to permit most structures under 200sq ft. If your property is in a sheet flood zone with any Riparian, Pima county requires (strong arms) you to sign a covenant that runs with the land.


Leave a Comment