Build a Rainwater Harvesting System

This article from Environmental Building News shares how to build a rainwater harvesting system to gather rain for watering, washing and drinking water.

| August/September 2003

Learn how to build a rainwater harvesting system to save free water.

Rainwater harvesting systems can be as simple as directing gutters to a lidded garbage can or as complex as a concrete cistern, roof washer and filtration system. But whatever your application, rest assured that you'll be getting some of the purest — and cheapest — water around.

Why Save Rainwater?

Rainwater can be used for potable water (drinking, cooking, bathing) or nonpotable uses such as landscape irrigation, livestock watering and washing. Collecting and using rainwater has numerous benefits, ranging from improved water quality to reduced stress on underground aquifers.

"All water is rainwater," rainwater systems enthusiast and author Richard Heinichen is fond of saying. And indeed, he's right: All our water, whether sucked from an aquifer, river or well, or harvested from a rooftop, once was cloud-borne.

But after it falls from the sky, rainwater percolates through the earth and rocks, where it picks up minerals and salts. As Heinichen points out, in many cases, this water also collects other contaminants such as industrial chemicals, pesticides and fecal coliform bacteria found in the soil. Captured before it hits the ground, rainwater is free of many pollutants that plague surface and underground water supplies and, according to the Texas Water Development Board, "almost always exceeds [the quality] of ground or surface water."

Rainwater typically has very low hardness levels, which reduces the use of soaps and detergents, and eliminates the need for a water softener. Fewer minerals also saves wear and tear on your plumbing fixtures.

9/19/2013 4:26:58 PM

Exactly, the water on the earth is actually the real water. It is a blessing of God that He purifies water of earth for us and provides us in the shape of rain. So, we should take care of rain water.

Joanna Browne
1/5/2013 10:58:28 PM

We're building a concrete house in Puerto Rico. We plan on harvesting the water from the roof. Does anyone know of a concrete sealant that won't contaminate the water?

12/19/2011 5:58:55 PM

We actually design and process this in Vancouver BC where it rains most of the year at It has become something that people should really consider to collect rain water and store it.

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