6 Methods for Harvesting Rainwater

Choosing the right method for harvesting rainwater is essential to making your urban homestead more sustainable.

| April 30, 2014

Written for city dwellers by city dwellers, The Urban Homestead (Process Media, 2010) is an illustrated instruction guidebook for the homesteading movement. Kelly Croyne and Erik Knutzen show how to grow and preserve your own food, clean your house without resorting to toxins and raise animals in your own backyard. This excerpt from “Be Your Own Utility”  gives six of the best methods for harvesting rainwater, as well as instructions on how to build your own water barrel.

After conservation, the second step toward water independence is harvesting rainwater. The number of ways you can go about this might surprise you.

Six Methods for Harvesting Rainwater

Rainwater harvesting is an easy and positive course of action for people in nearly every climate in the world. Living in a dry place such as the desert southwest may make it seem more urgent, but no matter where we live, rainwater harvesting is a positive step toward changing our attitude toward the water that falls for free from the sky. Rainwater can be sent to where nature intended it to go — to the soil.

The most important step in formulating a rainwater harvesting strategy is careful observation of present conditions. Where does water flow when it rains? Rainwater harvesting expert Brad Lancaster suggests working from the highest point in your yard to the lowest point. For most of us the highest point will be the roof of the house, but other high points could include sidewalks, decks, outbuildings, or your neighbor’s driveway. Observe where water goes in a rainstorm or when the neighbors overwater their lawn and ask yourself if there is a way to direct this runoff to where it will percolate into the soil and water your plants.

Rainwater Harvesting Technique 1

Become A Radical Depaver
Our first concern is to minimize the impermeable surfaces that prevent rain and earth from meeting. Your initial step in harvesting rainwater has nothing to do with barrels or pipes. Instead, you’re going to pick up a sledgehammer. In so doing you will eliminate, as much as you can, every impermeable surface that prevents rainwater from getting into your soil where it belongs.

7/4/2018 5:02:59 PM

Rainwater harvesting is not illegal. It was heavily restricted in Colorado, Washington and Utah until 2009, but all three states have since relaxed their bans. In six or seven other states, rainwater harvesting is regulated -- you have to obtain a permit, which is in most cases is about making certain that your harvesting equipment doesn't contaminate groundwater -- but not illegal. (You have to obtain permits to construct houses or drive automobiles, but that doesn't make people claim such activities are "illegal.") The guy in Colorado who was jailed for 30 days in 2012 had been denied his permit, but went ahead and built three giant reservoirs anyway -- in other words, his real offence was defying the state regulatory agency. The Internet, not being subject to any kind of screening or editing, is a great place to plant and spread misinformation for political purposes. Re-read any of those "rainwater collecting is illegal" articles and you'll note the political spin, which is a first hint that the article is exaggerated. Here is a link to one of the more balanced ones:

10/19/2017 3:56:24 PM

Ohio actually offers tax incentives to those that harvest rainwater with systems that create potable water. I am not sure why people are under the impression that it is illegal to harvest rainwater. I know that several cities require enclosed and aesthetically pleasant systems that will not breed mosquitoes or look like the Beverly Hillbillies are living in the hood. But it is not illegal, just regulated, like everything else.

10/19/2017 12:44:23 PM

We use a 1000 gallon (imperial) tank to harvest rainfall from the roof although the tanks aren't necessarily cheap. Most people use smaller tanks. We use our tank water for the garden, drinking water and plan to use it for the bathroom but still need the plumbing installed. Perth rainfall averages 28.5 in. (725 mm) most of it in winter. Sprinkler rosters were introduced in 2001 and made permanent across WA in 2007 (2 allocated days per week or 3 days if you have a bore) with recommended limit of 10 mins. We have had permanent sprinkler bans throughout winter since 2010.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: September 14-16, 2018
Seven Springs, PA

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard