Save money by irrigating with harvested rainwater

While rainwater harvesting is an ancient technique, it fell out of favor as communities grew more urban. Recent weather trends of extended drought and high summer temperatures have renewed interest in this conservation practice.

Rainwater harvesting simply captures, diverts and stores rainwater. Runoff is the rainwater that flows off a surface such as a roof. This water can be captured and stored. There are numerous benefits to harvesting rainwater.

Why harvest rainwater

In many communities, 30 to 50 percent of the total water is used for landscape irrigation, and the easiest way to use stored rainwater is in landscapes. You can save money by collecting and storing rainwater and using it to irrigate your trees, shrubs and lawn.

Harvesting rainwater for use in the home landscape:

* Saves money by reducing your water bills

* Reduces demand on the municipal water supply

* Makes efficient use of a valuable resource

* Reduces flooding, erosion and the contamination of surface water with sediments, fertilizers and pesticides in rainfall run-off

Rainwater is good for plants because it is free of salts and other minerals that harm root growth. It can be harvested and used immediately to water plants or stored for later use. Capture systems can be used both in large-scale landscapes, such as schools, municipal facilities, or parks, as well as in residential landscapes.

How rainwater harvesting works

Runoff, the rainwater that flows off a surface, is harvested. A simple water harvesting system usually consists of a catchment, a distribution system and a landscape holding area.

Catchment area

The most common catchment area is a roof. Paved areas and even the soil surface “catch” rain. The amount of water harvested depends on the catchment size, surface texture, slope and rainfall received. One inch of rain falling on 1 square foot of surface yields approximately .6 (six tenths) gallons of water.

Transporting rainwater

If you have gutters and downspouts on your house or garage, you have a fantastic system for harvesting rainwater. Transportation systems channel water from catchments to landscape holding areas. Sloped sidewalks, hillsides, street and curb cutouts, ditches and swales also transport water.


Collected rainwater may be stored in above ground containers including plastic or steel drums, barrels, tanks, cisterns, and stock tanks. Underground containers may be utilized for storage, but cost more to install, utilize and maintain. A holding area can be a raingarden, a concave or planted area bound by a border or earthen berm.

Using Collected Rainwater

A distribution system — garden hoses, solid or perforated pipes, and low volume or drip irrigation lines — delivers collected water to plants from storage containers. Small pumps, gates, diverters and filters may be required to transport water to plants.

DIY System Design

Steps involved in designing a water harvesting system include site analysis, calculating the supply, system design, and construction. While these steps may appear complicated, the process is fairly simple. To learn more visit this online website:

The demand for water, a limited natural resource, can be reduced through rainwater harvesting, and everyone benefits.

* Charla Anthony is the horticulture program assistant at Texas AgriLife Extension, Brazos County, 2619 Texas 21 W., Bryan, Texas 77803. Her email address is

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