West Virginia Off Grid Laws: An In-Depth Guide

West Virginia has long been associated with rugged land, rustic cabins, and rural life. As a result, many people think West Virginia is a good place to live off the grid.

Before you start looking for your dream property, though, make sure you understand West Virginia off-grid laws. It may be illegal to live the type of self-sufficient life you want.

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

Is Living Off-Grid Legal in West Virginia?

Living off-grid is usually legal in West Virginia. The only laws that may prohibit you from going completely off the grid are local ones that require you to connect to the municipal sewer system if it is located nearby.

You may have trouble getting permits for some off-grid systems, such as a latrine or wind turbines, but the laws do not expressly forbid them.

West Virginia Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living

Local zoning laws ultimately determine whether you can go off-grid legally in West Virginia. Not only do these zoning laws establish lot sizes and setbacks, but they can also limit what types of businesses you can run from your home, whether you can farm, and how many animals you can keep.

Note that about 40% of West Virginia areas are unincorporated. While these areas tend to have fewer regulations, they can still fall under zoning laws. You’ll need to do detailed research into an area to determine what is allowed and what isn’t under the regulations.

West Virginia Building Codes

Even though many rural counties do not enforce the codes, you must follow numerous state building codes in WV. These include:

  • 2015 International Building Code
  • 2009 International Energy Conservation Code
  • 2015 International Existing Building Code
  • 2015 International Fuel Gas Code
  • 2015 International Mechanical Code
  • 2015 International Plumbing Code
  • 2015 International Property Maintenance Code
  • 2015 International Residential Code
  • 2015 International Swimming Pool & Spa Code
  • 2014 National Electric Code
  • 2010 ANSI/ASHRA/IESNA Standard for Commercial Buildings
  • 2009 ICC/ANSI American Standards for Accessible & Usable Buildings and Facilities

Tiny Home Laws in West Virginia

Many areas of West Virginia have laws that make living in a tiny home illegal.

Mobile Home Laws in WV

Living in a mobile home in WV is legal, but only if it has been “permanently affixed to real property.” This generally means it will need a sewage connection.

However, you could still encounter issues with zoning laws. Many places only allow mobile homes in special mobile home park zones. The minimum dwelling size regulations can also make living in a mobile home in many parts of WV impossible. You will need a permit to transport a mobile home in WV.

You can read the state definitions of mobile home vs. modular home here.

Off-Grid Electricity Laws in West Virginia

Disconnecting from the West Virginia grid and using off-grid power is legal. State and county rules make getting a solar electricity system permit easy. It is illegal for homeowners associations to prohibit solar. There is net metering for grid-tied homes but no other state incentives for installing solar in WV.

If you want to install a residential wind turbine in West Virginia,  you will likely encounter legal issues. Most counties in WV haven’t addressed wind turbines in their zoning codes, leaving turbines in a legal grey area.

You’ll likely have to get permission from the zoning board – and there is no guarantee that the authorities will be familiar enough with wind turbines to grant a permit.

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Off-Grid Water Laws in West Virginia

West Virginia is a water-rich state which rarely has severe droughts. As a result, WV has very relaxed water rights rules. Even though the State owns all of the navigable waters, it follows the law of riparian rights: you are legally allowed to use the water on or next to your property so long as you do not deprive other riparian owners of their rights.

There are very few restrictions on how you can use water. The only legal hurdle you may encounter is stormwater laws and permitting when disturbing more than 1 acre of land.

Read the full West Virginia Water Laws here.

Water Use Reporting

As of 2015, anyone withdrawing more than 300,000 gallons of water in any 30 days in WV must report their water usage. This applies to both surface and underground water use.

Surface Water Laws in West Virginia

You can use water on or next to your property in West Virginia. The main rule is that your water use cannot deprive your downstream neighbors of water. In this case, the issue would be resolved in court.

Diverting Surface Water

It is legal to divert water on your property in West Virginia, such as by creating irrigation channels, so long as the diversion does not infringe on the rights of downstream riparian owners. However, you are not allowed to divert water beyond your land. So you could not divert a river and have the channels run off your property to another property.

Building a Pond on Your Property

It is legal to build a pond on your property in West Virginia. You usually do not need a permit for rainwater ponds, irrigation ponds, stock ponds, or other small ponds. Some counties may require construction or other permits, so you must check the local laws. Larger ponds will fall under the legal definition of a dam and are more highly regulated.

There are some situations where it is illegal to build a pond, though. The law is written to protect fish in West Virginia. It states:

“No person may construct or maintain any dam or other structure in any stream or watercourse, which in any way prevents or obstructs the free and easy passage of fish up or down such stream or watercourse, without first providing as a part of such dam or other structure a suitable fish ladder, way or flume, so constructed as to allow fish easily to ascend or descend the same.”


You usually do not need a permit to get water from a spring in West Virginia. However, if you want to use the water for drinking or other potable uses, you must use a chlorinator or UV light to treat the water. You’ll need to check the inspection and permitting process with the local health department.

Well Water Laws in WV

A Certified Well Driller must drill all water wells in WV. You’ll need a permit, and the County Health Department will inspect the well before you can use it. You also need a permit to modify or abandon a well.

Rainwater Harvesting Laws in West Virginia

Harvesting rainwater in West Virginia is legal, and there are virtually no laws prohibiting you from doing so. You won’t need a permit for simple rain barrel systems or even for most large rain cisterns (though you may need a construction permit for underground cisterns).

If you want to use rainwater for potable uses, you must use a chlorinator or UV light to treat it. You’ll also have to follow the regulations pertaining to nonpotable water systems in the International Building Code if you want to use rainwater indoors, such as for flushing toilets.

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Sewage and Waste Removal Laws in West Virginia

West Virginia has some pretty strict laws about sewage treatment. With very few exceptions, the law requires you to connect to the municipal sewer line or to install a septic system.   You can read the complete WV sewage laws here.

Despite these strict laws, there are still many areas of West Virginia where people use illegal outhouses or “straight pipes” that dump waste directly onto the ground or streams. As a result, many areas have issues with raw sewage getting into waterways or even running into the street. The West Virginia EPA declared thousands of miles of streams impaired because of how much fecal bacteria was in the water.

Keep this in mind when looking for property in WV. Even if you hate regulations, you’ll want to ensure you live where sewage laws are enforced so you don’t have raw sewage from your neighbors coming onto your property.

Required to Connect to Municipal Sewer

West Virginia State law allows districts to require customers to connect to the municipal sewer if it is available. The district can require this even if the home already has an approved septic system. The home will have 30 days to connect from the date of notice.

If the home does not connect or does not use the city sewer, they will still be required to pay the city sewer bill. The bill is based on water consumption (if metered) or the average consumption of the customer’s class.

This requirement to connect to the sewer main essentially makes it illegal to go off grid in many parts of West Virginia.

Septic System Laws in West Virginia

You will likely need a septic system if you are not connected to the municipal sewer. The system must have a capacity of at least 1,000 gallons per day for homes with 1-4 bedrooms, though this amount can be reduced if waterless toilets are used. All septic installers must be licensed in the state.

Conventional systems include gravel and pipe, gravel-less pipe, and chamber systems. Certain non-conventional systems are allowed when a conventional system cannot be used or repaired. These include home aeration systems, low-pressure dosing systems, holding tanks, and recirculating sand filters. Non-conventional systems are only allowed on lots of two acres or larger for new constructions.

Are Compost Toilets Legal in West Virginia?

Composting toilets are legal in West Virginia. The law states that they must meet the requirements of NSF Standard 41 but does not explicitly state whether the composting toilet must be certified by NSF Standard 41.

If you plan on using just a composting toilet in WV, though, you cannot do so legally. The law states that composting toilets must also have an approved greywater treatment and disposal system. This almost always means septic.

Also Read:

Are Outhouses Legal in West Virginia?

Outhouses are legal in West Virginia. There are specific rules about how the outhouse must be designed, including vents and methods of keeping insects out.

The outhouse can only have an earthen bottom if it is located:

  • Below and at least 100 feet from groundwater supplies
  • 20 feet away from dwellings, roadside cuts, streams, establishments
  • 10 feet away from any property line

Even if you can meet these requirements, you will still need an approved greywater disposal method – which almost always means septic. There is an exception for residences without indoor plumbing. These can use a shallow leach trench for greywater, but only if the Commissioner approves.

Greywater  Laws in WV

West Virginia law is not favorable towards off-grid greywater systems. This is partly because the law defines greywater as “sewage.” This includes greywater from sinks, drinking fountains, laundry tubs, bathtubs, and washing machines.

Under this definition, it is illegal in WV to dump your laundry water on the ground (though many homes certainly do anyway).

Under the law, residential greywater disposal systems:

  • Shall have a house sewer of not more than two inches in diameter.
  • Manufactured greywater disposal systems shall receive approval from the Commissioner.
  • Non-commercial greywater disposal systems shall consist of the following:
    • A soil absorption field designed on the basis of a thirty percent (30%) reduction in water usage and constructed in accordance with the design requirements for the standard soil absorption fields; and
    • A septic tank sized according to the following: For four (4) or less bedrooms, the minimum tank capacity shall be one thousand (1,000) gallons; and 6.15.d.2.B. For each additional bedroom, the minimum tank capacity shall be two hundred fifty (250) gallons per bedroom.

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

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  1. Hi the holler I live in just had a terrible flood and I was wondering is it ok if people put large culvert pipes down in the creek and cover them with dirt to make their yards bigger?

  2. We had our heart set on WV, but after reading/researching everything I could find on the state, it looks like we will have to set our sights somewhere else:-( We planned to buy a few secluded acres in a county without building codes, such as Braxton County ,but there is no way we can afford to build a home, install a well & septic system all at once. I thought we could get away with a composting toilet and divert the gray water to a good location for a year or two but seems like you can’t live on any land in WV without a septic system:( Thankfully there are still a handful of states that will let you live on your land without a septic system.

  3. I currently live in Virginia. However I’ve been debating on moving to Missouri or WV. Because I want to completely go off grid! However, it looks like I can’t do what I want in WV. You know how people live in Arizona, where their gray water feeds their plants, well that’s what I want to do. Of course I want a composting toilet, and our gray water would go directly into the ground to our garden. Does WV allow this? I’m still in research mode for both states, living in Virginia, I know for a fact it’s not allowed here, it’s next to impossible to go off grid in VA and provide for yourself. Unfortunately government has their hands in everything here in VA, and I’m out In the country in VA! Hence why we want to move,to an area with less zoning regulations, preferably no zoning laws at all for building on your own land, and I want something near Pennsylvania, for family reasons. VA is way too far from family. We’re on the NC line, and we’re 8 hrs away from family, we hate it here, so many laws, sooo much control! Anyway, anyone know of a county in WV or MISSOURI that has absolutely no zoning laws, where we can truly build free from governments control. Anywhere near Pennsylvania would be perfect!

    • hardy county WV has no building inspections and they only want you to get a building permit to make sure you are not building in a wetland area. They are nuts about wildlife but the don’t inspect anything, no foundations, no electrical, no plumbing, no framing, no HVAC…amazing place that is gloriously lost in time. Zoning…not really and I doubt you’d run into any trouble

  4. If you own over 5 acres in West Virginia do you have to have a permitted septic system a home inspector told me you didn’t have to is this true

    • You’ll have to check with the local health authorities and probably submit soil analysis, etc. Sorry I can’t be of help!


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