Georgia Off-Grid Laws: An In Depth Guide

With its good climate, abundant water, and affordable land (especially in the northern part of the state), Georgia is one of the most popular states for off-grid living.

Georgia generally has laws that favor off-grid living, but don’t be surprised if you encounter legal restrictions that make the process difficult or even impossible in some areas.


Is Living Off-Grid Legal in Georgia

Living off the grid is mostly legal in Georgia. The main issue preventing you from going off-grid is waste disposal: in many areas, you must connect to the public sewer line.

However, in rural areas, going off-grid is usually completely legal. The caveat is that you must get permits and follow strict rules for installing wells, septic tanks, and other systems.

Georgia Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living

Zoning laws don’t necessarily prohibit you from living off-grid, but zoning does determine how you can use your land.

Unfortunately, Georgia has stringent zoning laws. To make matters worse, zoning laws vary drastically between counties. You will have to spend a lot of time researching these laws to determine whether you can have livestock, slaughter your chickens, or live in a tiny home.

Even the codes used for zoning districts aren’t uniform throughout Georgia. The main ones you want to pay attention to when looking for property are:

  • AG: Agricultural
  • CA: Commercial Agricultural
  • RR: Rural Residential
  • SR or R-1: Single-Family Residential

Generally, areas zoned for agricultural use (AG) have more relaxed rules than those zoned for residential use. However, don’t assume you can do certain activities because the land is zoned as AG. One county, for example, might allow mobile homes on AG land, whereas another county prohibits it.

Murray County code, for example, limits how many animals you can keep on AG land. If you want more than 50 animals (including small animals like chickens!), you’ll have to be on CA land – which has strict rules about minimum lot sizes and who can live there.

Raising Animals in Georgia

Since Georgia has a long tradition of raising animals, the laws are very strict in most areas.

Again, this mainly depends on local zoning laws.

Don’t assume the laws will be relaxed just because you are in a rural area. Surprisingly, some areas around Atlanta have more relaxed laws about raising chickens than rural counties do! This article has some examples of backyard chicken laws around Georgia.

Qualifying As a Farm in Georgia

Qualifying as a farm in Georgia means you will get some tax breaks. Your property will be valued at less than market value, so property taxes are lower. And, under the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE), you receive a break on sales tax for farming equipment and supplies. Some other types of land also get these breaks.

Unfortunately, qualifying as a farm is more complex than in other states. You need to have at least $5,000 annual income from farming. The property taxes aren’t based on “current use value” like with many other states, so you could still pay a lot in property taxes.

See more detailed info about the GATE and Property Tax Valuation programs here.

Off-Grid Electricity in Georgia

It is entirely legal to use off-grid electricity in Georgia. This includes various off-grid systems, including solar, wind, and hydro. Because the state is so sunny, there already are a lot of homes in Georgia that are completely or mostly off-grid.

Unfortunately, there are no state-wide rebates for installing solar in Georgia. If you decide to stay grid-tied, the state has a net metering policy, so you can get some money for the excess electricity you produce.

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Off-Grid Water in Georgia

Georgia used to be considered a water-rich state. However, the state – especially the northern part – has suffered droughts much more frequently. So, it’s essential that you understand Georgia water right laws before setting up an off-grid home.

Surface Water

Georgia uses the law of “riparian rights,” meaning that you own any water going through your property. You are also legally allowed to use water bordering your property (though you might not be able to swim in that water).

However, riparian rights laws also have some restrictions:

  • You cannot alter the course of the water
  • Cannot deprive your neighbors of their water
  • The water must be put to beneficial use

Further, Georgia law says you must have a permit if you use more than 100,000 gallons of water per day. Permits are obtained from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).

Well Water

Georgia law states that “the property right of the real estate owner extends downward indefinitely and upward indefinitely.” The Georgia Supreme Court interpreted this to mean you own all the water underneath your land. This makes Georgia one of the few states giving property owners absolute groundwater ownership.

There are a few exceptions, though. You must:

  • Get a permit if you plan to use more than 100,000 gallons per day on average
  • Keep records of how much water is withdrawn from your well

Further, in times of drought, your neighbors might also be able to sue you for taking too much water. This article has some good information on the topic.

Regardless of how much water you plan on using, you must get a well permit. There are some reasonably strict (but common sense) laws about who can drill wells and where they can be placed. It’s pretty simple, though it can still be costly. You can read about the regulations here.


Under Georgia water rights law, you own all the water that falls on your property – including rainwater. This means it is completely legal to harvest rainwater in any amount. The state even offers incentives for people who install rainwater barrels, allowing you to get a tax credit of 25% of the costs up to $2,500.

However, many laws restrict how you can harvest and use rainwater in Georgia. You cannot use rainwater for drinking water. Rainwater can be used indoors but must be treated before entering the home – even if you want to use it for things like flushing the toilet! There is a good guide to Georgia rainwater harvesting rules here.

Graywater Recycling

Graywater recycling systems are legal in Georgia, but they are heavily regulated.

If you want to use a system built into your plumbing and store graywater in tanks, you must follow strict building and design codes. The biggest issue in these codes is that graywater must be treated before being used indoors. You’ll need to get a permit for the system from the local county board of health. This article has good information about the requirements.

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Sewage and Waste Removal

Off-grid sewage treatment systems are somewhat legal in Georgia. If your property is within 200 feet of a public sewer line, you must connect to it. However, some exceptions exist for homes that use alternative systems, so long as those systems meet requirements.

If you aren’t required to connect to the public sewer, you will almost always have to install a septic tank. The law does allow for some alternative off-grid sewage treatment systems, though – but the rules are strict, and the decision is ultimately up to your County Health Board. The laws are in the Georgia Manual for On-Site Sewage Management Systems. I’ll summarize parts of those laws below.

Compost Toilets

Composting toilets are legal in Georgia. However, they are only allowed in certain situations – such as when the property is too small for a large septic tank and absorption field system. Only approved compost toilets are allowed.

The law states that you must still dispose of laundry, bath, and kitchen wastes in a septic tank. It isn’t clear whether you could use an approved graywater system as an alternative.


Outhouses are legal in Georgia. However, they are only allowed if

water under pressure is not available within the building structure or where approved gray water disposal systems are provided.

There are also regulations about how and where the outhouse can be constructed, such as keeping it at least 20 feet from property lines and 100 feet from wells. You must have the soil evaluated before getting a permit.

Note that some counties still may have laws that prohibit outhouses.

Incinerating Toilets

Incinerator toilets are somewhat legal in Georgia. You can use them but only in places where “waste generation is minimal, such as a remote office staffed by a limited number of people, and where no wastewater from kitchens, bath or laundry is expected.” So, most permanent dwellings must use another sewage treatment system.

Garbage Removal

Burning trash in Georgia is strictly forbidden. According to some reports, the law is actually enforced. It used to be illegal to burn yard waste in Georgia, but the law changed in 2021. You can now burn yard waste in most situations. More on burn permit laws here.

The law also states that private landfills are not allowed. This means you won’t be legally able to handle your own trash. If you live somewhere with trash collection services, you’ll likely be forced to pay for them – even if you don’t produce any waste or compost all waste.

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Other Off-Grid Laws in Georgia


The laws vary by county, but it is usually illegal to live in an RV. Some places, such as Murray County, won’t approve septic or power for RVs.

Tiny Homes

Georgia law is not very friendly towards the tiny house movement. Many counties have strict minimum sizes for homes written into their zoning laws. Recently, some county laws have even increased the minimum size to keep tiny homes out of their communities.

However, there is hope. In 2018, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs adopted the Tiny House Appendix “S” (read about that here). It might be a while before local counties adapt, though.

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  1. The part about requiring a permit to burn yard waste has changed, it’s no longer required in most cases. Check the gaburn website for details.

  2. I just moved to the tip of northern Georgia. Were surrounded by pecan and peach farms. I would love to join a homesteading community or even start one if there isn’t one here. Does anyone know of any homesteading communities in Georgia?

  3. Thank you for posting this information. I currently live in Ga and want to build a cabin. This article contains such valued facts, that will help me find the right type of property.


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