4 Methods of Rainwater Harvesting

It can be easy to take rainwater for granted, particularly if you live in a temperate or tropical climate where drought is a rare event. But we need to pay more attention to rainwater, because this resource, so essential to all live on earth, is not infinite. We should all be conscious of the water we use (and waste), and make efforts to maximize the functions for which water is used. This is one of the reasons why permaculture design highlights the use of mulch and cover crops to slow the rate water percolates through the soil, and suggests the use of landscape contouring and swale-building to slow the runoff of rain from the land.

Another strategy to maximize water efficiency is rainwater harvesting. This refers is the deliberate collection of rainwater from surfaces that it falls on, rather than letting the water simply run off and enter the municipal drainage system. The collected water is then stored and utilized for multiple functions in the garden and home.

Beyond the obvious benefit of capturing and using water that would otherwise go to waste, rainwater harvesting has the positive effect of reducing your water bills, easing the pressure on the municipal system of pipes, dams, wells and treatment plants, and ensuring a supply of water should extreme weather conditions affect your location. By collecting and using rainwater, you can also be assured that you have some of the cleanest, healthiest water available, as it will not have been treated with chemicals as the water that comes from your taps will have been.

If you want to use rainwater in the home, you will need to invest in filtration and pumping systems, but for use in the garden, the set-up is usually much simpler. There are several systems you can use to collect rainwater, with options suitable for both rural and urban, large and small sites.

Installing a barrel on your property is the easiest and cheapest way to begin harvesting rainwater. Place the barrel under the downspout of your guttering so that the rain that falls on the roof of your property is diverted into the barrel. Typically the container will have a spigot at the base from which you can draw water to irrigate your garden. You can affix a hose to the spigot or even connect it to a drip irrigation system. Barrels are easily sourced, either new or recycled (if going for the latter option, check what the barrel has been used for to ensure no unwanted chemical residues remain inside) and simple to install. If you live in an area where mosquitos abound, it is advisable to place a lid on your barrel to prevent the insects laying their eggs in the water, while if you live in a location that experiences freezing winter conditions, you may want to disconnect your rainwater barrel during those months to prevent it from freezing and cracking. The major downside with the barrel method of rainwater harvesting is the limited capacity, which can lead to overflowing. You should also avoid using a barrel made from translucent material; a barrel that lets in sunlight is likely to grow algae inside, which can only be got rid of by the addition of chlorine, a chemical you don’t really want to be putting on your garden beds.

Dry System
It may seem odd to talk about a ‘dry’ system when discussing water capture, but this method is a recognized strategy, and so-called to differentiate it from the ‘wet’ system below. The dry system of rainwater harvesting is essentially the barrel system scaled up in size. A larger container is placed next to the property, offering a larger storage capacity than a barrel, and the guttering is diverted to the top of the tank. Like the barrel method it is reasonably cheap and easy to implement. It gets the name ‘dry’ because essentially the collection pipe ‘dries’ after each rain event, since it empties into the top of the tank. This makes it a good choice for plots in areas prone to infrequent but large storm events.

Wet System
In contrast, the wet system refers to the collection pipes being constantly full of water. This is because they are underground. Multiple rainwater harvestingcollection pipes are fitted to several downspouts on the property, and then run underground to the storage tank. The rainwater will rise through the pipes and spill into the tank. When it is not raining the level remains static and the pipes full. Because of the constant presence of water in the pipes, it is essential that they are watertight to prevent leakage into the soil. It is more expensive to install that the barrel or dry system, due to the underground piping, but does have the benefit that you can locate the tank anywhere on the property (as long as the inlet is at a lower elevation that the lowest gutter), unlike the previous methods that have to have it next to the building, and divert rainwater from multiple properties to one tank. With both the dry and wet systems, you need to make sure you have an adequate base on which to site your tank as, depending on capacity, they can be very heavy.

Green Roof
There is another method of rainwater harvesting that cuts out the middleman, so to speak. Rather than collect the rainwater in a storage unit then divert it to the garden, you could institute a green roof on your property, so that plants can utilize the water immediately. You need to put down a liner to protect your roof, and have a drainage system for excess runoff (it is most efficient if your drainage system is diverted into a barrel), but instituting garden beds planted with low-maintenance plants, means your are maximizing the productive space on your plot and making use of the rainwater where it falls. In addition, planting a green roof will also provide additional insulation to your property (and so reducing your heating bills) and protect the roof from damage.


One thing to consider is the use of the first flush and similar mechanisms to ensure that the first 10 or so litres of water (laden with bird droppings and polluted (road) dust) is washed down the drain and only the subsequent water is diverted to the storage vessel.

we do that already

Check your local laws, it may be illegal to harvest rainwater in your area.

If we had rain

Unless it’s illegal to collect it!!!

Illegal here!

If we ALL put a cistern in our yard, how could they possibly prosecute all of us?

Muriel Ponder if Americans stood together on many things we’d have more freedom. America needs a spanking! In a bad way!

Illegal in most if not all states. Funny thing though, so is a lot of other things yet people do them all the time

That’s putting it mildly.!

You said the keyword Muriel Ponder..IF.. if we stop buying food that poisons us..if we plant food not lawns…if we get rid of the ones destroying the earth…if we come together as people THEN WE CAN DO THIS

Shouldn’t be hard in Vancouver

This is illegal where I am. 🙁

Illegal in Ore.

I would do it anyway , and just hide the containers , I collect in different area of my gardens and with a pitcher , the water is right there to water everything , Baskets , potted plants and what I have in the ground ,

Exactly. A simple tool shed or cabinet type structure just large enough to hold several stacked 55 gal barrels would suffice. And voting Libertarian every chance you get will help as well.

Vote Libertarian for the renewal of freedoms and liberties.

This is illegal here too….

What, rainwater harvesting illegal?, why u let that happen as a community?

Wow…wow…wow…I wonder when we’ll let breathing be illegal without paying for it…let’s fix this Good People <3 <3 <3

Rain water was collected for domestic use for mainy years on the prairies.

u crazy lawbreakers…it is really sad

Water is just as easily stored in the ground. Create sunken beds for your gardens, using water-loving plants closer to the lowest area of the garden.

How in the world can that be illegal?

Do it anyway, and with pride. Fuck the system. It’s only illegal because of greed, and desire for control.

Because most of the US population are timid little sheep with no self-respect, who bend over and let the government ram its dick up their ass, instead of standing up and defending their birthrights. As evil as the government is to do what they do, it is the apathetic public that enables them.

just remember, it is illegal to capture and save rainwater in many locals across the US.

MUST: Check local laws for ridiculous illegality.

You would deff have to filter the deinking water to get rid of the toxins from the chemtrails.. If one could filter the garden water too would be beneficial as well.. But doing so will only keep out a little bit of it.. An air filtered green house would be real nice..

Laws are meant to be broken. Love the earth, and do what is right. Sustain your life and the lives of the children’s children. Replenishing this world is revolutionary, and the greedy will try to stop you any way possible. We must be willing to get into trouble if we truly want peace.

Interesting….I remember when I was just a girl; my parents always had a rainwater barrel on our bridge to catch the rain….rainwater is so soft…. 🙂

I only use rainwater in my garden bought a barrel years ago with my airmiles point and it is insulated for the winter so it stays outside all year long and sometimes our temperarutes is -24 . brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Capturing rain water is where its’ at! Fresh water from glaciers – “OH MY….. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE THE GLACIERS? ” Exactly……Fresh water is in trouble!

then go to jail

In Australia, many houses, on acreage are self sufficient in water. We’ve underground concrete tanks and above ground ones.

be careful some cities will try and sue you lol

ok question, when I saved my water it looked nasty with all the mess from the shingles on my roof “tar” wont that hurt my plants?

Use some sort of filtering cloth or fine mesh before the water enters your barrel.

Illegal in Colorado from what I understand. Maybe just Denver.

In many places, it seems. It’s called “resource diversion.” Though I think in many places there’s an amount limit.

All of our gutters are piped into a cement cistern, which was the only source of domestic water (or water hauled in and pumped into it) until we drilled a well about 4 years ago.

Dylan Nelson mo betta

4 ways to become a felon in oregon… Hahahahahaha

Except it’s illegal in Colorado and various other Western states.

Some folks have mentioned it’s illegal for CAli farmers to harvest water. WTF? Also in CO. Who the F’ makes these laws?

This is my next project and I dont care if its illegal or not! 🙂

Doug, it’s okay in CO for a small, residential application. I believe this changed in 2010?

My Grandmother, Lucy, did this.

Finally some useful information thanks Rex

The EPA has new Regulations to stop rain Harvesting…

Government of the People needs a real fix…

Thanks for sharing!

Sure u can say GB America…because it does not say which One or exclude any…

Cheryl Bourgeois

Not here in Colorado

Phillip Robinson

I have yet to find a site which shows what states forbid this

Seems like we need to also be filtering this since the raid can contain so many toxic substances that are being sprayed in the skies, aluminum, barium, mycoplasmas etc

Exceeded my monthly click limit when I try to read the post??? I signed up for the course! What gives, and why a limit?

We have drains on our greenhouse that leads it into a container outside and a few inside the green house that get filled through holes in the roof

Rodney Vezina and Matt Teric Greenan

Watch out in some states it is illegal, Colorado for one

Happy our barrel got filled last night!! 😉

Here is what I found about it being “illegal”. now mind you I just googled it and I know that everything on the net is not always true.

Michelle Elliott maybe we should share this with Erica…


There are appropriate times to go to jail. Be sure the media reports your grave offense

Ashley Price hahah

Not legal in Maryland

Sharing but hoping you are telling folks to filter it before using. “Chemicals and other pollution is in the water [chemtrails]

Most states don’t allow this because the drinking supply areas rely on the rainwater runoff to be collected. If too many people collect the rainwater it can cause shortages elsewhere.

In a free nation collecting rain water is against the law in a bunch of state, glad I joined Marines to protect my freedoms

The problem is that we get a lot of water!

Here in NE Texas we had better figure the rainwater thing out because apparently Dallas still wants our water to water their lawns. I guess they have never heard of native grasses, no sprinklers and conservation.

We use the wet system. The pond is our storage spot.

It is forbidden by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT in most states west of the Mississippi. The EPA now conciders anything that falls from/thru the sky (including meteorites believe it or not) property of the US GOVT. You can also be sued by water resources suppliers for theft because they pay the govt a fee for ITS water.


I’m reading the comments of people who say that it is illegal for them to collect rain water. Frankly I am surprised that you all accept this. Do you not know that we the people is the government? That is why we vote for representatives and senator, trustees, county board members, judges,mayors, etc. We control the government with our votes. Everybody who said it’s illegal get a group together, create a website listing the benefits of collecting rain water. Then create a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media and voice your opinion. Attend your local towns board meetings and demand that the officials change the rules. In a democracy your have power. Get involved that is how our country came to be. They spoke against the British rule who was forcing them to join his own brand of religion. As a result we have the Constitution that gives freedom of speech, religion(we can practice any brand of religion), freedom of the press and so on. I disagree with the person who is promoting Libertarian. Their ideology is no liberal because they are racist and wants no regulations on companies particularly companies who pollute our water, air and land with fracking, mining and oil digging. Unfortunately the leaders of he two houses of congress support the above ideology because they are greedy for money and power. they do not support collecting rain water nor do they acknowledge that climate change is threatening to our earth and our lives.
Please get involved in government, get active and turn off Fox News and the rest of the corporate news media. For real news go to Free Speech TV, WCPT, Daily Kos, Rawstory, BBC, France24, Young Turks, Ring of Fire, Thom Hartman, Norman Goldman, Al Jazeera.
We use to be number 1 in everything, we are no longer. Although the stock market has nearly tripled, wages have been stagnant as a result average Americans are not experiencing growth in their own lives. Yes there are jobs but they are less than minimum wage jobs. They are not enough to pay bills, educate our kids, save and move up the ladder of the American dream.
Get active for all of our sake not just yourself.

A 50gal food grade barrel. I use the water for my garden. I’d hook it up to my gutter system but I don’t want to spend the money on a filtering setup.


Rain water collection is not illegal in Oregon however they do have rules about how to harvest such as you may only harvest from structures, the gentleman who was convicted of collecting rain water was convicted because he diverted it into ponds on his property by not allowing it to reach county drainage. Here is a website that explains state laws on the matter of rain collection.

I would only use rain water outside and house plants. I would also use it to flush a toilet. I have seen all the particles from the roof. Maybe a little bird crap mixed in there. A few bugs floating ….. Yum yum.

My aunt had a rain barrel beneath the downspout of her eaves. And of course it was very soft water.

I Got all the infrastructure pipes under ground from my house rain gutters, which will gravity feed to a natural swimming pond, from there all the overflow will continue down slope to buried concrete tanks for fire suppression/ and irrigation on the land. For a total of 10,000 under ground and 40,000 in pond with two 5 horsepower 240 volt submersible lead and lag pumps on motor control center Designed and wired up by me, all hard wired for auto and manual run operation via contactors and man/auto motor control switches, with 240 volt well pump incorporated into the system for auto fill of pond and tanks as water is used via float switches wired to motor control center! Fun Projects that come from brain storms sitting watching the sunset! A Mind And Water is a Terrible Thing To Waste!

What if you don’t have a roof or downspouts to use? We need a method to collect rainwater in the local community garden – no buildings, no fences.

When I was a kid, we saved rainwater for washing and rinsing hair; the hair came cleaner, and did not build up any hard water residue.

Have you ever been to California?

Jim spicer – I grew up in Kern Cty. Friends and family were either in Ag as owners or workers. I meant in IL I get too much water. In the whole world, we need to insure our water supply is protected.

Leyla Sanchez

Yes this is it!! It’s impertinent that we do this.

I mean bidness

Kristine Anderson

Actually not. Some states encourage rain water harvesting. It is also encouraged where I live to reduce the burden on storm drains.

I want that barrel

Lillian..if you can find something that water can run off of..then prop it up on an angle…then run it into your wheel barrow…quick and easy method

Lucky I had 4 new rain barrels full, just before the well collapsed….

Thank you Connie Lucille Lee. I live in Colorado. So happy to see this article.

Sadly it’s illegal in alot of places…
But when a law is unjustm it is your duty to disobey it!
just say.. im not collecting rain in a barrel.. that’s just a water sculpture!

Jeff Cisler

May be moving and plan on doing this at my new place. Thanks for the info

Tom Abraham

Just make sure the gestapo doesn’t catch you if it’s “illegal” in your area

Not legal in Oregon

My parents have used this for years. They had a great garden until recently. It is one of the best ways to water your garden. They fed us the whole summer long with fresh vegetables and fruits. Nothing like home grown.

Jennifer Sereno- are you doing this?

Oh, yeah! You know it, Angela!

I figured, this whole page makes me think of you, obviously;)

If only we had rain here…..

Paige Blackmon, they get our water too.

Anyone test rainwater lately?

Be careful…in many places this is illegal! I’m not saying that is right…just saying I have heard of folks being fined for doing this.

Illegal in washington state.


Oregon too, all over the west.

ironic that oregon has a man serving prison time for trying to save rain water for his own property

What is this thing called rain?

Here in Northern Minnesota, we just store it in the lake.

Harvesting? How does one cut and bale it?

We integrate swails (ditches) on our hills and
in our gardens to direct rain to trees and orchards…

ILLEGAL in Colorado unless you do not have the option of a municipal water source! (if you only have a well, you are allowed to catch the water that falls from the sky…. ) NO KIDDING Riparian law in our state is absolutely primitive IMHO.

I don’t harvest rainwater. It rains quite a bit here in western Washington. I also don’t water the yard when it naturally goes brown in the summer. I spot water garden plants and use lots of mulch.

this system sends the firstamounts of water passed the diverter, taking with it the particulates, bird poop, debris from trees, basic dirt… sending fairly ‘clean’ water where you want it.

I save it from the downsprout from the roof for watering garden when needed.

Rain barrels and a raised fish pond. Heavy mulch, keeping the weeds out and veggies in… Works for me.

There is no point collecting polluted and toxic rainwater unless we have a way to purify it completely. one percent poison is 100 percent poison…

Think ahead, be smart and hide it. It is our duty as Americans to disobey unjust laws 🙂

subteranean saturation.

Collecting the rain water, then filtering it if needed. We are getting closer and closer to no real water. We must do something. We are all slowly being poisoned anyway. I’m going down fighting!

I find it very disturbing that municipalities are prohibiting the collection and re-use of rainwater. Similar to how the majority of traffic tickets are all about increasing revenue and having nothing to do with actual public safety, these municipalities do not want their monthly nut messed with.

I’m a landscape contractor in Georgia. We can still collect and harvest rainwater here. Aquascape Inc. has come up with a fantastic alternative to the more traditional methods of rainwater collecting… rain barrels, above and below ground cisterns, etc. Their idea is to incorporate a water feature (pond, waterfall, fountain, etc.) with the capture and re-use of rainwater. I’ve installed a handful of these and they are fantastic. With the constant movement of water, via the waterfall, the water stays aerated and doesn’t have that stagnant smell that you get when re-using water that has been sitting in a barrel or cistern.

Here’s a link with more info:

Illegal to collect, harvest or store rainwater in Oregon.

Here ya go. It’s not illegal according to this.

be careful about this some places it is not legal to do this the state or county owns rain water


Who really cares if it’s illegal, a little civil disobedience is always a good thing, stand up and be heard


It seems crazy that rainwater harvesting is illegal in some places. In PA, it’s encouraged as a way to conserve water. As an aquascape contractor my company actually offers rainwater harvesting solutions, in order to collect water to use for ponds, waterfalls and other water features that we install.

Why not four methods of polygraph or mri? For all parties lol

Excuse me? It’s not ok for us to save our water; yet it is ok for Nestle to bottle water from communities water source?

Pump it out of the ground.

Dianne Stephenson

Ian Tanga let’s get it going at home 😊 blista show Ian please 😘

Swales and ponds should be included great way to collect water

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