The Basics of Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting tank filling up

If you want to become more self-reliant, there’s no better place to start than by harvesting rainwater. Nearly every part of your home that uses water can be supplied with rainwater instead. And with a little planning, you can even use it for the needs of your garden and landscaping. Rainwater harvesting systems work in much the same way as the natural ecosystem does, by collecting and storing water so that it is available when needed, rather than allowing it to run off into storm drains or soak into the ground. The advantage of having a system like this at home is that you’ll be able to collect water during times of heavy rainfall (when most homes aren’t using much water) and store it for later use (when homes are consuming more).

What is rainwater harvesting?

Rainwater harvesting or rainwater collection is the accumulation and storage of rainwater. It can be used for irrigation, drinking water, crop watering, and other purposes. The harvested rainwater can also be used for non-potable purposes such as toilet flushing or washing cars.

While the two terms are often misused interchangeably, there are some important differences to bear in mind when deciding which term to use in your own project:

Rainwater harvesting involves storing water from multiple sources (e.g., roofs) whereas collecting only involves one source (e.g., gutters or eavestrough).

Harvesting is usually done by professionals who do it for a living while collecting is done by individuals who want to save money on their utility bills or have an interest in sustainability.

Knowing the distinction will help you determine your needs and prepare accordingly. Whether you are collecting or harvesting rainwater, we recommend starting by hiring professional gutter cleaners and taking it from there.

Why rainwater harvesting?

Rainwater harvesting is a great way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint. With an average of one inch of rain per day, you could be making a major difference in the amount of water that’s wasted.

These systems are also a great way to reduce reliance on municipal water systems during times of drought or emergency. Municipal water supplies can become depleted quickly. Having extra storage available can help keep things running smoothly in your home or business during these tough times.

Finally, water harvesting systems increase property value! Homes with green features like this are more appealing to buyers who are concerned about the environment and want to make sure they’re getting everything they can out of their investment.

Local laws and requirements

Before you can begin building your rainwater harvesting system, you must first thoroughly research the local laws and regulations that will affect your project. At the top of this list are building codes, permit requirements, safety issues, water conservation regulations, and more. As far as government agencies go, there’s a lot to consider:

  • Building codes
  • Permit requirements
  • Safety issues (consideration for fire sprinkler systems in commercial buildings)
  • Water conservation regulations: It’s important to note that most states have enforceable laws regarding water conservation. You’ll want to make sure your system is not only environmentally friendly but also compliant with state regulations.  Adding to an existing structure without getting approval from local authorities first could be considered illegal!

If you’re building on property owned by someone else (like an apartment complex or condo complex), they may require proof that all plumbing pipes inside walls have been inspected by licensed plumbers before giving permission for any construction work being done at the site

Components of a rainwater harvesting system

A few basic components make up a rainwater harvesting system:

Catchment area

The catchment area collects water, usually from the roof of your house or garage. It needs to be large enough to collect all the water you want to harvest and it needs to have enough slope on its surface so that the water doesn’t pool up in one spot.

Storage tanks

Storage tanks are necessary if your goal is to use this water for household use. Tanks are also useful if you want more control over how much runoff goes into your tank—you can limit excess amounts by creating barriers around your tank, but these barriers may not be ideal under certain circumstances (for example, if you live in an area where erosion will cause landslides).

Filtering rainwater

Filters remove debris such as dirt particles or leaves from incoming water before storage begins. Without them, these materials could clog pumps and pipes later down the line after being released into storage mode again once full capacity has been reached (which would lead back toward having no access at all). 

The Pumps

Pumps move clean rainwater throughout your home as needed while keeping sediment out of faucets by filtering out particles larger than 1 micron (smaller than most bacteria), which means they’re very effective at preventing smelly plumbing problems down timeline too!

Where to install your system

It’s important to install your system where it will be easy to get at and maintain. That way you don’t have to worry about having to climb a ladder or use ropes in order to check on the system, change filters, or do major repairs. But there are also other places where you can install them such as:

  • Awnings
  • Patios
  • Under stairs at ground level

Places exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time are not good for your rainwater harvesting system because heat will damage them. Trees also tend to block light from reaching the collectors so avoid installing your system under them if possible.

Filtering and storing rainwater

After you’ve captured the rain, it’s time to filter and store it. You might want to use a large container, like a clean 55-gallon drum or plastic garbage can.

If you have hard water that contains calcium and magnesium ions, use softening filters before storing your harvested water. Filters are available at home improvement stores or through a local hardware store in your area. You can install them in a few minutes, and you won’t be paying more than $20.

After filtering, use an airlock lid on your drum so that bugs don’t get into the container when you’re not using it!


We hope we’ve given you a good understanding of rainwater harvesting. Explore your options and ask questions – save water and money!

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