Oregon Off-Grid Laws – An In Depth Guide

Oregon is largely considered one of the best states for off-grid living. The land is fertile, and the state has many policies that favor people living sustainably.

However, Oregon is also one of the strictest states regarding how you can use your land, so setting up an off-grid home might not be as easy as you think.


Is Off-Grid Living Legal in Oregon

Off-grid living is legal in Oregon. However, Oregon has stringent zoning laws, which may make building or doing certain things on your property challenging.

Oregon Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living

Oregon has some of the strictest zoning laws of any state in America. Over half the land is for public use. The private land is divided into six types of zones, and each zone has rules on how it can be used. The rules are designed to protect Oregon’s natural resources and prevent suburban sprawl but make getting land for an off-grid property harder.

Most private land in Oregon is zoned as farm, forest, or mixed farm/forest. Generally, the eastern part of Oregon is zoned for farm use and the western part as forest.

Land Use in Oregon:

  • Public land: 55% of all Oregon land
  • Farm: 25%
  • Forest: 13%
  • Farm/forest: 4%
  • Rural: 1%
  • Development Other Rural/Non-Resource: <1%
  • Urban: 1%

You can find a map of Oregon land zoning here. The Oregon Legislative Committee Services also has a good guide to Agricultural and Forestlands here.

Farm Zoned Land in Oregon

Much of Oregon’s land is zoned as EFU (Exclusive Farm Use). There are very strict rules on how this land can be used. Some of the restrictions include:

  • Parcel size: To prevent over-development, parcel size minimums are 20 to 160 acres. It is virtually impossible to have a small-acreage off-grid farm in Oregon.
  • Type of Dwelling: You can only have one residential building and farm-related outbuildings with few exceptions.
  • Use: The land must be used for farm-related purposes. These are pretty broad, though, and include beekeeping, making cider, and other non-typical farm operations.

You can read more detailed rules here.

Forest Zoned Land in Oregon

Like with farm-zoned land in Oregon, there are many restrictions on using forest-zoned land. To prevent deforestation and over-development, there are minimum parcel sizes. The types of dwellings allowed are also minimal.

Farming is allowed on land zoned as Forest in Oregon. However, there may be additional rules in place. For example, if your property is in a wildlife habitat, you may be required to use practices that won’t affect the habitat. You must contact the Land Conservation and Development Office for information on what’s allowed and prohibited.

Qualifying as a Farm in Oregon

Land costs in Oregon are very high. Because there are minimum parcel sizes you are required to own in farm and forest zones, your property taxes can be extraordinarily high. You can get your property taxes reduced by qualifying as a farm. It varies, but the land will typically be taxed based on gross revenue, not market value.

In EFU-zoned land, qualifying as a farm is fairly straightforward as long as you make some profit by farming and use the land exclusively for agriculture in the previous year. Read more about that here.

Qualifying as a farm is more challenging on land not zoned as EFU (such as forest land). You will need to make a minimum revenue based on acreage:

  • Land 6.5 acres or less: $650 income
  • 5 to 30 acres: $100 per acre
  • 30 acres or more: $3,000 total

Further, the land must currently be used for farming, have been used for the two previous years, and meet the income requirements in 3 of the 5 last years. More information on requirements is here.

Off-Grid Electricity Laws in Oregon

Oregon is one of the easiest places in the United States to disconnect from the power grid. State laws favor renewable energy, and there are incentives for installing off-grid electric systems. Microgrids are allowed and could be used to establish off-grid communities.

Even though the law favors off-grid systems, the permitting process is still fairly strict. If you have a homeowner’s association, you must gain their approval first.


Oregon offers numerous rebates and tax incentives for installing solar power systems. You are eligible for these incentives even if your system is not net-metered (grid-tied), which is not always true in other states.

Other Oregon laws which are favorable to solar include:

  • Counties are not allowed to charge for solar permits: Though they can charge for building/construction aspects of the permit.
  • Renewable energy installations are exempt from property value taxes
  • Cities must allow rooftop solar equipment: Under Oregon House Bill 3516 (2011)


Off-Grid Water Laws in Oregon

Surface Water

All water in Oregon belongs to the public. Even if a stream or lake is on your property, you must get a permit to use that water. Likewise, you will need a permit to create reservoirs on your property. Once you get a permit to use a water source, the government cannot revoke the permit so long as you use it in accordance with the terms of the permit. Read more about Oregon water rights here.

Well Water

Like with surface water, groundwater in Oregon belongs to the public. You must get a permit to use well water, even if it is on your property. However, exemptions include “Single or group domestic uses up to 15,000 gallons per day.” See Oregon’s Well Water Handbook for more.


Rainwater harvesting in Oregon is legal. However, there are restrictions: you can only catch water from rooftops and parking lots.

Many people incorrectly believe rainwater harvesting is illegal in Oregon because of a 2012 case where a man was sentenced to jail. In that case, though, the man had created numerous 20-foot dams to collect huge amounts of water (he had enough to put boats on it!).

If you want to collect rainwater from a surface that is not your roof or parking lot, you’ll need a special permit.


There are some incentives for collecting rainwater in Portland. However, these incentives only apply to people still connected to the water utility.

Greywater Recycling

Oregon is one of the few states that specifically encourages greywater recycling and has clear laws. The law says that water from bathtubs, showers, washbasins, clothes washers, and laundry tubs can be recycled so long as it does not connect to any potable water system.

A permit is required. You can learn more here.

Also Read:

Sewage and Waste Removal

Unlike many other states, Oregon has many sanitation laws enforced statewide. These laws generally favor off-grid waste removal systems such as compost toilets. You will still need to check local regulations to see if there are any additional rules in your area.

Compost Toilets

Composting toilets are legal in Oregon. They’ve been allowed in residential homes since 1978 under plumbing code ORS 918 770-0080. However, local ordinances may require homes to have at least one flush toilet or other “approved wastewater treatment system.” Permits are required.

Previously, they were not allowed in commercial buildings. However, commercial properties can now file a code appeal to get approval for compost toilets.

Read the Oregon composting toilet law here.


Outhouse latrines are legal in Oregon. They are referred to as “pit privies” in the law and require a permit in almost all cases. The law states:

  • Unsealed earth-pit type privies may be approved where the highest level attained by groundwater is not closer than 4 feet below the bottom of the privy pit.
  • The privy must be constructed to prevent surface water from entering the pit.
  • When the pit becomes filled to within 16 inches of the ground surface, a new pit must be excavated, and the old pit must be backfilled with at least 2 feet of earth.

Garbage Removal

Oregon has strict laws against illegal trash dumping. These laws make it reasonably difficult to disconnect from trash removal services. If you disconnect, you’ll need to take trash to dumping stations and pay their dumping fee. You can see a map of Oregon waste removal services here.

Toilets & Waste

Other Off-Grid Laws in Oregon

  • RVs: Oregon has laws that are relatively favorable to living in RVs or motorhomes. However, in many cases, the RV must be located in an RV park, connected to utilities, and used as a residence. Read more here.
  • Tiny Homes: Most places in Oregon are favorable to tiny homes. In many cases, though, the home needs to be on a permanent foundation, or it will be considered an RV.
  • Raw milk: In some cases, such as small farms, selling raw milk is legal. See more here.

Do you live off-grid in Oregon? Let us know in the comments section about any legal issues you had to deal with!

Also read:

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. We want to live off grid in Oregon as we have for 20 years in Idaho. I was surprised to learn from a realtor that it is not possible in Columbia county. What counties do allow it?

    • I know this may be a little off topic but my fiancé and i are trying to find somewhere to live off grid. Our choices are Oregon and Idaho so i was just curious how has your off grid life been in Idaho? I didn’t know there was still so much legal actions that had to be taken even if you are not connected to angry kind of society. Thank you.

  2. Some of the information in this post is incorrect. No permits for solar? Try again. Oregon is a very liberal State when it comes to what is allowed, but there are rules and permits for everything.

  3. Im in oregon bought five acres and all they care about is permits for septic nothing else until u get them permits ur only allowed 21 days on property in a 6 month period

    • What area is this? I just bought 12 acres in Klamath County and wondering what permits I need for an A frame. It’s only for get aways a few weeks a year.


Leave a Comment