6 Methods for Harvesting Rainwater

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

  • Building your own water barrel is one method for harvesting rainwater that is sure to lead to a more sustainable urban homestead.
    Photo by Fotolia/alisonhancock
  • "The Urban Homestead," authored by professed city dwellers Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, is an illustrated guide that proposes a paradigm shift that will improve our lives, our community and our planet.
    Cover courtesy Process Media

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.

8/18/2018 6:50:35 AM

After purchasing a home built in 1909 with a 55 ft hand dug well water became more important than ever to our family. This years drought has caused recharge rates to change drastically from day to day. We decided to intercept the buried gutter that ran within 10 feet of the well. I bought a yard drain box from Greydock and commercial kitchen floor drain plastic filter and sock from Drain-net. We have $125 and a few blisters invested. We periodically add bleach to the well. Inside it passes through two sediment filters, gac backwashing tank, UV light and a softener before consumption. The sock from Drain-net was our biggest score at $4.50 a piece. Hope this helps.

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: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/...

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.

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