Montana Off-Grid Laws: An In Depth Guide

With its abundance of economical rural land, Montana is becoming significantly popular for off-grid living.

Before you begin trying to find your dream property in Montana though, make sure you comprehend that laws about off-grid living, particularly for zoning, water rights, electrical, and waste removal

Is Living Off-Grid Legal in Montana?

Off-grid living is legal in Montana. State and regional laws even particularly deal with many off-grid systems, which can make it much easier to get a permit to lawfully build your home using newer or speculative systems.

However, don’t expect that you’ll have the ability to do whatever you want on your land. You’ll eventually need to get authorizations and follow building regulations if you want to live lawfully off-the-grid in Montana.

Montana Zoning Laws and Off-Grid Living

When it concerns living off-grid legally, regional zoning laws eventually identify what you can do on your land. Luckily, Montana has a few of the most unwinded zoning laws in the U.S.A..

For instance, North Gallatin Canyon policies do not require building permits. The primary rules have to do with installing indications on your property. In close-by Bear Canyon, there is zoning but residents are enabled to keep animals and grow food as a right, even on 1-acre plots.

Just like Texas, there is even a lot of land in Montana which still has no zoning at all (such as in Stillwater County). You’ll basically be able to do whatever you want on your own land. Surviving on land without zoning isn’t always a good thing though. Montana is experiencing a big population development, which suggests a subdivision might pop up ideal throughout from your previously-untouched land.

Every county in Montana is required to have a “neighborhood ordinance”. These manage plots of land less than 160 acres with the objective of preserving open space. As an alternative to zoning, some locations have “development allows” or “efficiency requirements” which focus more on structure standards and lot sizes than what you can do with the property. Read more about those regulations here.

If there aren’t any zoning laws and you want there to be (such as to avoid an enormous subdivision from being constructed neighboring), Montana does have laws which enable local residents to adopt or change districts. You can read more about that process here.

You might also discover it helpful to read: Homestead Declarations: Why You Need One

Off-Grid Electricity in Montana

Using off-grid electricity is entirely legal in Montana. Nevertheless, you will require to get an electrical permit to install your system.

Regional counties might also need a structure permit and have zoning rules about the size and positioning of the system. Presently, Bozeman has the strictest guidelines in Montana about setting up planetary systems. You can check out solar regulations and allow expenses in Montana here.

Since it is such a windy state, small wind turbines are an excellent choice for off-grid living in Montana. Compared to other states, the guidelines on wind turbines are fairly unwinded. Find out more about wind power in Montana here and more about the policies here.

Montana does provide some rewards for using renewable energy. You can see a list of rewards here.

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Off-Grid Water in Montana

Practically all of Montana is very dry and numerous parts are under constant dry spell conditions. Because of this, water rights are highly controlled and you might have problem getting enough water for your off-grid property.

As a result of the dry spell, the state in addition to numerous city governments have some rules about how you can use water. For instance, in some cities, you can’t water your yard without an authorization.

See a drought map of Montana here.

Who Owns the Water in Montana?

Under Montana law, all water in comes from the State. However, individuals can own the right to utilize the water. Getting water rights is an extremely complex process. It isn’t guaranteed that you’ll get water rights, even if you have water on or listed below your home.

Key Points about Obtaining Water Rights in Montana

  • Under the 1973 Water Usage Act, all new water rights should be gotten from the Montana Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). This typically needs a permit, fees and substantial paperwork.
  • Water rights in Montana are usually tied to a residential or commercial property. For instance, if you buy a home that has water rights, the water rights will be transferred to you. This isn’t always the case though. Landowners can detach the land from the water rights, such as by selling the water rights to one person and the land to another.
  • Montana utilizes the law of prior appropriation. This essentially indicates that whoever acquired the water rights first has very first dibs to use the water. For example, in a time of drought, an upstream junior water rights holder might not be permitted to use water passing through their residential or commercial property so the senior rights holder downstream can use it.
  • You need to use the water in order to keep the rights. If you just
  • Water should be put to beneficial usage.
  • Lots of basins in Montana are closed to water appropriations. You will not be able to get a permit to utilize this water.

For more details about Montana water rights laws, read:

Surface area Water

If you have a stream or lake on your residential or commercial property, you will need to get an advantageous use permit. The license procedure is long and complex, so you’ll require to prepare ahead.

There is an exception to the surface water permit requirement. You can construct an animals pit or reservoir without a license if all the following are met:

  • It lies in a non-perennial flowing stream
  • The capacity is less than 15 acre-feet with a yearly appropriation of less than 30 acre-feet
  • Built on and accessible to a tract 40 acres or bigger and owned or under the control of the applicant.

Even with this exception, you will still require to apply for a provisionary license within 60 days of building the reservoir. The DNRC can revoke the license if it affects previous water rights.

Well Water

In Montana, you do not need to get a water rights permit for a groundwater if the appropriation is less than 35 gallons per minute and no more than 10 acre-feet of water per year.

Within 60 days of drilling the well and putting it to use, you’ll need to submit a notice to the DNRC. Wells using more water than this need a Groundwater Application for Beneficial Usage Permit, which is a long, intricate procedure.

Rainwater Harvesting Laws in Montana

Although the state owns “climatic water,” rainwater harvesting is legal in Montana and does not require a permit.

The state website states,

“You can gather rainwater from roofs in mosquito-proof containers. The water can be utilized later on lawn or garden locations.”

Some locations, such as Missoula, have actually even initiated programs motivating rainwater harvesting. Nevertheless, the DNRC asks (see here) that anyone proposing rainwater harvest of more than 0.1 acre feet call them prior to moving forward.

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Sewage and Waste Elimination

Montana’s sewage policies are remarkably modern-day and relaxed. The law specifically discusses newer systems like composting toilets and “experimental systems.”

Due to the fact that the law is detailed, you shouldn’t have excessive difficulty getting a license for your off-grid waste disposal system. The biggest difficulty you might come across is the law that requires all homes which have running water to install septic or link to the local sewage system.

You can read the details of Montana’s on-site sewage laws in Circular DEQ 4.

Compost Toilet Laws in Montana

Composting toilets are legal in Montana, even as your only sewage disposal approach. Nevertheless, if your home has running water, you’ll likewise need to have a sewage-disposal tank. There are also other policies, such as that the toilet needs to:

  • Meet NSF Standard 41
  • Different liquids from solids
  • Have constant forced ventilation to the outside
  • Produce a steady humus material with less than 200 most probable number (MPN) per gram of fecal coliform

There are also regulations about how to get rid of and deal with composted waste, though this normally won’t restrict you from composting “humanure” in a yard compost pile. Wastewater needs to be dealt with in a septic system or absorption field.

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Outhouses Laws in Montana

Outhouses (called pit privies) are legal in Montana. Nevertheless, unlined pit privies are only legal for structures that have no running water or piped water system. If your house does have running water, then you’ll require to use a lined pit privy (vault toilet) and have it pumped out too as have septic for your house’s wastewater.

There are some rules about how pit privies should be constructed, but they are generally extremely relaxed compared to other state laws.

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Graywater Recycling

Graywater recycling is legal in Montana however normally needs an authorization. The water should ultimately be gotten rid of by an authorized sewage system (such as using graywater to flush a toilet).

Graywater can be used to water plants if those plants aren’t for human intake and the water doesn’t contain sewage or harmful chemicals. You can read the details of the law here.

Do you live off-grid in Montana? Let us understand about your experiences in the remarks section listed below.

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