While Nevada isn’t the most hospitable environment for living off the land, there has been a movement of people buying property there to live off grid.
Before you start dreaming of a self-reliant life there, here’s what you need to know about Nevada’s off grid laws.
Want to know more about living off grid? Read:
- The Off Grid Laws of All States in America
- Checklist for Disconnecting from the Grid
- These States Are Best for Homesteading
Is Living Off-Grid Legal in Nevada?
In many parts of Nevada, off-grid living is illegal because laws require you to use the municipal water supply or connect to the electric grid.
You are much more likely to be able to live off-grid legally in rural parts of the state. However, you may need to rely on bulk water delivery services in these areas of Nevada.
If you are dependent on delivery services for survival, it’s questionable whether you can truly consider it living off the grid.
Nevada Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living
Even remote rural areas of Nevada fall under local zoning laws. These zoning laws ultimately determine what you are legally allowed to do on your property.
Rural agricultural zones are usually the most permissive, though you may be required to have a minimum of 40 acres per dwelling unit.
The zoning laws in Clark County, Washoe County, and other populated areas of Nevada are stringent. For example, Clark County regulates how many vehicles you can keep on your property, how many accessory dwellings are allowed, and even whether you can build a greenhouse.
If you want to have livestock or other farm animals, you will need a larger parcel of land and, even then, likely still be limited to how many animals you can have.
Nevada generally has favorable laws about living in manufactured homes, including tiny homes. In almost all zones, they are usually allowed as accessory dwellings.
If the manufactured home is attached to a permanent foundation and connected to the utilities, it will be considered a “real” home.
Nevada is more friendly towards living in a mobile home than other states. They are generally allowed in areas zoned as Rural Open Land, Residential Agriculture Districts, and Manufactured Home Residential Districts. However, using a mobile home as an accessory dwelling on your property is generally not allowed.
It is also possible to convert a mobile home into a permanent home. In this case, the mobile home would be allowed in most zones that allow single-family residences.
Solar Electricity Laws in Nevada
Nevada used to have terrible laws regarding solar energy: solar users connected to the grid had to pay additional fees, and there were no net metering rates. However, this changed with the Renewable Energy Bill of Rights passage in 2017.
Under the new law, Nevadans can generate and store renewable electricity on their property. The law also establishes net metering rates for grid-connected properties and prevents utility companies from charging additional fees to solar customers.
The law mainly addresses grid-tied solar energy systems. In areas where electric utilities are available, you might have trouble getting a Certificate of Occupancy for an off-grid home. The permitting process for off-grid energy systems can be more complicated than grid-tied systems in certain areas.
Off-Grid Water Laws in Nevada
Considering that it is the driest state in America, it is no surprise that Nevada has stringent laws about off-grid water.
The biggest obstacle to off-grid living is a law requiring you to connect to the municipal water supply if available. In addition to this law, water rights are complicated and expensive to obtain in Nevada. There are even limitations on how you can collect rainwater.
Who Owns the Water in Nevada?
The public owns all of the water in Nevada, including surface and groundwater. However, individuals can get permission to use the water.
Permission is based on the rule of priority (first in time, first in right), meaning whoever claimed the water first gets to use it. The water must be put to beneficial use to maintain a water right.
Assuming you can find unclaimed water in Nevada, you must apply to the state engineer to get a permit. Domestic wells are usually exempt from this requirement. You can read a good overview of the state’s water rights laws here.
Surface Water Laws in Nevada
Most of the surface water in Nevada was appropriated before the 20th century. Because of the rule of prior appropriation, there is no chance you will get rights to use surface water in the state.
It is illegal to use surface water in any way without first getting a water rights permit. The fines for illegally using water can be steep: up to $10,000 per day for each violation.
Am I Allowed to Use the Water on My Property in Nevada?
In Nevada, water rights are usually attached to the property where they are located. The water rights will go with the land when a property is sold. Because of this, any land in Nevada with water is incredibly expensive. It is possible, though, to sell land without the water rights. Even then, the water rights stay connected to the land until the owner transfers them. You can read more about this here.
Digging a Pond on Your Property in Nevada
Digging a small pond or other water reservoir on your property in Nevada is legal.
The state uses the “20/20” rule to determine whether you need a permit: A permit is required if half of a 50 acre-foot impoundment is below natural grade and the other half (25 acre-feet) is above the natural grade. If the entire reservoir is below natural grade, but there exists a 2-foot berm surrounding a 10-acre (surface area) pond, there is a potential to store 2 feet x 10 acres = 20 acre-feet of water, thus requiring a permit.”
You can read more here.
Well Water Laws in Nevada
Nevada law only allows you to drill a well on your property if no public water supply is available. If allowed, you do not need a permit to drill a domestic well so long as no more than 1,800 gallons are used daily.
Note that a domestic well is defined as one that serves a single-family home. Wells that serve two or more homes are considered “quasi-municipal wells” and require a permit.
This rule usually has some exceptions, such as if the second home is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (aka “granny unit”) on the same property. Most rural and single-family residential zoning allows accessory dwellings, but it varies by county.
If your well counts as a quasi-municipal well, you must install a meter and submit readings of all water pumped from the well.
Licensed well drillers must drill water wells in the state. The driller is responsible for submitting drilling logs to the state engineer. New wells must be tested for contaminants before they are connected to new residences. There are no ongoing water quality testing requirements for existing wells, though.
Rainwater harvesting was illegal in Nevada before 2017. The state then updated its laws to allow rainwater harvesting, but only from the rooftops of single-family homes and for non-potable purposes. It would be illegal, for example, to construct a platform specifically for collecting rainwater.
There are no limits to how much rainwater you can collect, though some counties may have rules about where you can put rain barrels or may require permits for certain tanks. If you want to install an underground rainwater reservoir, you’ll likely need a building permit.
Sewage and Waste Removal
Composting toilets, pit privies, and other alternative waste disposal systems are generally legal in Nevada. However, the state has strict regulations about how and when they can be used, and permits are required. See the law here.
- Diy Compost Toilet with Urine Diverter
- Best Indoor Composting Toilet
- Off Grid Waste Management
- How to Dig a Pit Toilet
Do you live off grid in Nevada? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.