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Rainwater Harvesting - What's it All About?

Many of us are looking for ways to go about our lives in a more eco-friendly manner. Rainwater harvesting is one strategy you can employ. 

Here, we’ll discuss the what, the why, and the how on rainwater harvesting—what it is, why you might want to do it, and how to go about doing it.

 Harvesting rainwater

Consider how much water we underutilize when it rains!

What is rainwater harvesting? Harvesting rainwater is the act of using one of several methods to collect and reuse rainwater prior to its hitting the aquifer, where water is often extracted for well use. It helps to reduce the strain on local water systems and can actually help provide cleaner water to those consuming or utilizing it than that which has run through the soil and absorbed the chemicals and minerals therein. 

Why do it?  There are many uses for harvested rainwater. Some people use it for drinking water and other domestic uses like cleaning and bathing. Many people use it to water their lawns and gardens, and some farmers use it to save money on providing water to livestock.

Not only can this be a smart financial move, but it also happens to be good for the environment because it places less pressure on the water distribution system, particularly in times when there are water shortages. 

What are my options? There have some options if you’d like to begin harvesting rainwater at home. These include leveraging the direct rainfall and utilizing your roof for harvesting.

Direct. To utilize rainwater for landscape irrigation, the setup of your garden is important. Utilizing plants that absorb and hold water is important so that you don’t lose the water to the street or a neighbor’s lawn. Plant life should be kept lower than slightly raised pathways and patios so that the garden can capture the water flow. Hillsides and ditches can also be utilized nicely to create flow.

Learn more about how to set up and irrigate your landscape here.

Rain catchment systems. Collecting rainwater on your roof can be very successful. In fact, according to, “the roof a 1,000 square foot house can collect around 600 gallons per ONE inch of rain! In an average year with 12 inches of rain in Los Angeles, that small roof could collect 7,200 gallons.”

There are a few methods for doing this—some choose the path of something like the RainSaucer, which looks a bit like an upside-down umbrella. Other people utilize gutters, but in either case, there is a pipe or downspout that runs down to the base of the house, carrying the water to a storage tank or rain barrel waiting to catch it. There are usually screens in the tanks to prevent leaves and other loose items from entering the tank.

There are many ways to contribute to keeping our earth in tip-top shape. One of these ways is in harvesting rainwater for use in our gardens and homes. More and more countries, like Bermuda and the US Virgin Islands, for example (and in our very own Santa Fe, New Mexico!), are requiring that new construction has rainwater harvesting integrated into a domicile. 

Look online for more strategies and information on harvesting rainwater.


Cara Aley is a freelance writer who writes about everything from matters of blogging strategy to those of physician reputation management. She is currently VP of Operations for Two Degrees, a one-for-one food bar company.