Oklahoma Off-Grid Laws: An In Depth Guide


Author:
Last Updated: August 31, 2021

Oklahoma has long been a homesteading state.  Because of this tradition, the law is generally favorable towards people who work and live off the land.

However, if you want to live off-grid legally in Oklahoma, you’ll still have to navigate the laws about zoning, electric, water use, and waste removal.

I’ll go over those laws here.

Want to more about living off-grid? Read:

Is Living Off-Grid Legal in Oklahoma?

Living off-grid is completely legal in Oklahoma.  Compared to many other states, Oklahoma has very relaxed laws concerning water usage and zoning. However, the law is vague about the legality of many off-grid systems like compost toilets, so you may have trouble getting a permit – or even figuring out which permits are needed for some projects.

Oklahoma Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living

Local zoning laws will ultimately determine what you can legally do on your property.

Unlike Texas, Oklahoma does not have a lot of “no zoning” land.  However, much of the state falls under Agricultural (A-1) zoning. You’ll be able to raise food, including most animals, with few restrictions. The minimum lot sizes are generally small at just 2 acres.

If you plan on making income off of your land, you could come into some problems. Very few commercial businesses are allowed in Agricultural and Rural lands.  You’ll likely need to apply for a permit.

Also, be warned that there is a lot of land in Oklahoma which is zoned for conservation or preservation. Even if you can legally live off-grid on this land, there will be many more restrictions on how you can use your property.

Qualifying As a Farm in Oklahoma

If you qualify as a farm in Oklahoma, your land will be taxed on its use value instead of market value. The requirements to qualify vary depending on the county but are usually around 40 acres.  Qualifying farmers also get a sales tax exemption on certain equipment.

Read more about the OK sales tax exemption here.

You might also find it useful to read: How to Save Money on Taxes with a Homestead Declaration

Off-Grid Electricity in Oklahoma

Off-grid electric systems are legal in Oklahoma. Solar system equipment is exempt from sales tax but there are no state rebates. There are also no laws exempting solar systems from your property taxes, so installing an off-grid system could increase your taxes.

There are net metering laws in place for grid-tied systems.

You can check Oklahoma renewable energy incentives here.

Also Read:

Off-Grid Water

Oklahoma is a drought-prone state and water is a precious resource. Both navigable and non-navigable waters in Oklahoma are public and not privately owned.  However, you do own the groundwater underneath your property.

No permits are required for domestic use though there are some restrictions on how you can use water.

What counts as domestic water use in Oklahoma?

According to the Water Resource Board, “Domestic use” means the use of water

  • For household purposes,
  • For farm and domestic animals up to the normal grazing capacity of the land
  • For the irrigation of up to 3 acres of land for the growing of gardens, orchards, and lawns.
  • For agriculture purposes by natural individuals.

Storing Water

Because of the drought situation in Oklahoma, the state has some specific rules about storing water. You are allowed to store domestic water but are limited to 2 years’ worth. It is unclear how they calculate what constitutes a year’s worth of water.

As laid out in Title 82 which deals with surplus water, in a time of drought, the government could force you to sell your stored water at “reasonable rates.”

Surface Water

You are legally able to use the water on your property.  A permit is not needed for domestic use.  You can read about the permit process here.

Because all navigable and non-navigable waters are public, you do not own the water running by your property. However, under tit. 82, § 105.2, you do have the right to use the water.  You’ll still need a permit for anything other than domestic use.

The fact that waters are public in Oklahoma also means you can’t prevent people from using them for things like fishing or boating. They aren’t allowed to enter your property without permission though; they must enter the water at a public access point.

The provisions of this act do not apply to farm ponds or gully plugs that are not located on definite streams and which have been constructed under the supervision and specifications of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts. (Source)

Well Water

You do not need a permit to construct a well for domestic use.  For other uses, you will need to get a permit from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.  The permit allows you to use a certain amount of water based on the amount of land that overlies a groundwater basin.

Read more about groundwater use laws in OK. And here you can find a map of groundwater levels.

Rainwater

Under the Water for 2060 Act which was passed in 2012, Oklahoma promotes rainwater harvesting and other systems designed to conserve water.

Despite this, the state offers few resources or incentives for residents who want to start capturing rainwater.  There are no tax rebates or financial incentives.  However, there are some incentives for community rainwater projects.

There are no laws preventing you from using rainwater for potable uses or flushing toilets. However, you would first need to treat the water so it meets federal standards.

Graywater Recycling

Graywater recycling is legal in Oklahoma.  The law states that you can dispose of up to 250 gallons of graywater per day on your property without needing a permit.  There are some restrictions, such as that the graywater can only be used for irrigating yards and gardens and that pipes must be clearly labeled.  You can read more here.

Also Read:

Sewage and Waste Removal

Oklahoma’s law about allowed on-site wastewater treatment systems is very vague.

The law allows “alternative systems” but does not specify which ones are allowed. This means that many off-grid waste systems like outhouses and compost toilets exist in a legal gray zone. It will ultimately be up to the permit issuer to decide whether your project is allowed or not.

Septic

To install septic in Oklahoma, you’ll need to get a soil test from a State-certified soil profiler. All new installations and modifications need a permit.

It is legal to install your own septic system in Oklahoma. However, systems installed by non-certified installers will need to be inspected before they are used. You won’t need an inspection if you use a certified installer.

There is generally a land requirement of at least ½ acre to install septic. Only more advanced nitrate-reduction systems are allowed in Water Body Protection Areas (WBPA).

Compost Toilets

Composting toilets currently aren’t mentioned under Oklahoma’s sewage treatment laws.  Instead, the law states that any “alternative systems” must be approved by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The good news is that alternative systems like composting toilets are becoming more popular in Oklahoma.  However, in the absence of clear regulations, it’s ultimately up to the local DEQ office as to whether they will allow you to use a compost toilet.

Don’t be surprised if you are forced to install a septic tank for dealing with waste.

Also Read:

Outhouses/Latrines

Outhouses are not mentioned in Oklahoma’s onsite sewage rules and regulations.  However, they could be approved as an “alternative system.”

Except in very rural areas or situations where it’s impossible to install a septic tank, you probably won’t be given a permit for an outhouse – thus making it illegal to use.

Also Read:

Garbage Removal

Oklahoma State law allows you to dispose of garbage on your own property so long as you are not creating a nuisance. Thus, you are not required to use the municipal trash service (though some local laws may require it).

You are even allowed to burn trash in some remote areas where trash collection services are unavailable.  You can read the rules on burning here.

Do you live off-grid in Oklahoma? Let us know about your experience in the comments section below.

Leave a comment

  1. Important to note. All plumbing systems in Oklahoma are defined as using municipal water or well water for domestic use. If it’s able to be used by humans via piping it must be labeled non potable unless it’s properly treated by approved means. If there’s a drain, there must be an approved onsite sewage disposal system in place. Under the Plumbing License Law of 1955 there are regulations codified into law that must be observed. The International Plumbing Code has all the pertinent information related to installations and regulations. As state law, the state authorities have jurisdiction everywhere except tribal lands. In the absence of an inspection office the state inspector has jurisdiction and the permits should be done through the Construction Industries Board in OKC.

    Reply

Leave a Comment