Gathering rainwater: hints, ideas and methods

Today gardeners are increasingly concerned with ecologically sound practices. Many have focused on building healthy soil or sourcing materials from companies that offer environmentally conscious products. One issue is very important in this context: collecting rainwater for irrigation.

There are several advantages to rainwater collection and it is important to find the right collection system for your needs. Today we're going to talk about the ways you can start collecting rainwater. Collecting rainwater not only gives you nutrient-rich watering to feed your plants, but it also helps you minimize your water bill.

Whether you live in a state like Washington, which rains profusely, or Texas, where there is little rainfall in some places, the collection and collection of water will benefit your household. Build the right system for your situation and we're talking about free irrigation.

Good options on Amazon for collecting rainwater:

Why is rainwater collection important?

Collecting rainwater doesn't always require a huge tank like Kevin's!

Saving water is more important today than it was in the past. Loss of topsoil has made natural waterways less useful due to the accumulation of toxins. In communities, the main source of water can run out. This increases the ecological urgency of rainwater harvesting.

Rain gathering is an important part of environmentally sound horticultural practices, especially in the western parts of the United States, where 72% of the region is affected by "severe drought". Switching on an irrigation system for an hour a day could be a thing of the past in a few years. So why not tackle the helpful practice of water abstraction now to prepare for a seemingly inevitable situation? Unless you opt for a full 5000 gallon cistern system, setting up your own rainwater collection system can be very inexpensive and easy with the right planning.

Rainwater is great for plants because it contains more oxygen. This helps the soil release the micronutrients that plants need. Collect water in rain barrels and you will find that your plants are bursting with color and vitality. You also don't risk pumping chemicals into the ground that might be present in tap water due to water treatment practices.

Because rainwater flows from the surface of your household into a cistern or rain barrel, it is collected instead of going to the ground where flooding can occur. If you are experiencing flooding problems in your home, a rain barrel might be a good idea. Barrels also don't take up as much space as a trough or irrigation ditch.

Overall, having a free source of water that truly nourishes your on-site plants is an excellent way to ensure success in food production. Catch, save and use as needed.

Is collecting rainwater legal?

DIY rain barrelsThere are many effective DIY rain barrel designs out there.

While it may seem counterproductive, some states are restricting rainwater use. Texas, California, Colorado, and others have found rainwater collection to be legal, but collectors must follow regulations.


In Texas, different counties have different rules for rainwater collection systems. In some areas, the catchment area needs to be incorporated into building design if it is to receive drinking water, and local communities need to be informed so that water tests can be carried out.


Rainwater collected by individual Colorado homeowners is typically limited to two barrels for a total of about 110 gallons. The water supply from the rainwater harvesting system cannot be used outside the property.


Before 2012 it was illegal to collect rainwater from roofs without a permit. However, water collection is now allowed nationwide. It is still illegal to collect water from gutters or streams. The collected water must be used for non-potable purposes.


The collected rainwater may only be used for non-potable purposes. Systems built for rainwater must comply with Illinois state regulations. HOAs may have specific regulations for the style and design of the system if they approve rainwater harvesting for their residents.


Rainwater collected from rooftops in Washington must be used on the property on which it is collected. However, there are detailed rules that vary by region for drinking water sources. Those who wish to use the water for drinking must contact their county to see if it is allowed or not.

And beyond

Several other states have requirements and restrictions when it comes to rainwater harvesting. While it's not illegal in any state in the United States, it is important to know your water rights before you start planning the harvest for your water needs. You don't want to get into a situation where you are knee deep into installation and expense to find that the way you planned your system is illegal.

Find out online about the laws and regulations of your district on rainwater harvesting. Know your water rights and you're good to go!

Advantages and disadvantages

Let's talk about the advantages and pitfalls of rainwater collection systems. This depends on the rain barrel or system chosen, so we'll break this down by type.

Rain barrels

A smaller rainwater collection system can hold around 50 to 100 gallons of water that is stored in rain barrels. For many people, this is all they need. It's easy to set one up to collect water from your roof that flows out of the house during a storm. It's easy to find a small barrel at your local hardware store or online, and the barrels won't take up much space in your yard.

The disadvantages of a small system is that that much rainwater (50 to 100 gallons) can be too little. This could mean that in a torrential downpour your barrel will overflow, wasting the hard work and effort you put into installing it. The installation of rain barrels can be connected to a pipeline that must be installed up to the gutter. Adding a second or third barrel to store additional rainfall could fix this problem, but it requires a more complicated set-up.

Dry systems

If you've used a small rain barrel (or barrels) to collect water and found that this isn't enough room for the amount of rainfall in your home, you could consider a larger tank of what is called a dry system. A dry system means that the bin is filled from above like a rain barrel, so that no water remains in the pipes to the system. In places where it rarely rains, a larger water supply makes sense. These water tanks are also easier to set up because of their proximity to your roof.

However, larger tanks, because of their size, can take a lot of energy to install next to your house. Like a rain barrel, they need to be installed near your home to be filled, which means they can block access to other areas of your garden. In places where it rarely rains, oxidation in the tank can occur, which provides enough space for green algae and bacteria to grow. These can ruin a water supply.

Wet systems

A wet system is another large-scale option for collecting rainwater. In this design, you install a tank away from your home and use multiple downspouts attached to gutters. Each downpipe runs underground on your property and is connected to tanks there. You can collect runoff from the entire area of ​​your roof, just like you would with a dry system. Since the pipes are hidden, not only can this mean more volume, but it also looks cleaner. Tanks that are outside of your home are nice too.

However, wet systems are referred to as wet because they often retain some water in the underground pipes and stagnant water poses the risk of bacterial or green algae growth. A large tank can be difficult to clean and more difficult to install. Setting up a floor installation system made up of several gutters makes DIY installation considerably more difficult. Finally, you should know that large wet systems are expensive. The economic benefits of a wet system do not outweigh the municipal water. However, it can be an important skill when the urban water system fails.

Of course, before considering whether to go with a dry, wet, or small structure, you should familiarize yourself with the flow of your home, estimate the cost, and compare your situation with the legality of water saving in your community. Large tanks are not allowed in some areas.

DIY ideas for the rain harvest

IBC bag for collecting rainwaterAn IBC bag can be an effective DIY option.

There are many different ways to get rainwater, and not all of them involve fancier systems. Here are some DIY rain harvesting ideas that you can apply.

Basic rain barrel

There are countless rain barrel options for rainwater collection. There are collapsible barrels that can hold up to 50 gallons and can withstand harsh weather conditions. Alternatively, there are sturdier, more stylized options that are a little more expensive but look great. You can even find DIY kits that contain all of the tools you need to build your own.

Trash can barrel

If one of the pre-made options is too expensive for you, no problem! Make your own with a trash can and a piece of fine mesh attached to the top under the lid. With a nozzle on the bottom of the can, you can pump water through a hose into your garden as soon as the water level is high enough. On average, a garbage can holds around 32 liters of water. This option is best for non-potable water.

Galvanized storage tank

Storage tanks are surprisingly effective as rainwater collection systems. They're sturdy and rust-resistant, and stylish enough to sit right in front of your house to collect rainwater. Float mosquito dunks on the surface to prevent mosquito infestation, and they can work just like regular barrels. Build a lid that will keep dirt and light out of your storage tank for optimal use.

IBC containers

These giant plastic containers are designed for carrying large supplies of liquids and can also be an effective rain storage method! Opt for a dark color to prevent light from entering the tank as light can encourage algae growth. A caged IBC container is reinforced on the outside with a metal cage to support the weight of the liquid. These can be expensive, but they are high in water and ideal for home improvement.

DIY tips for the rain harvest

Gunk collected in rain barrelImproperly shielded drums can collect in the ground. Source: roger_mommaerts

Regardless of whether you choose a wet, dry or small system for your garden or home, keep the following in mind.

Redirect the first rain

This keeps your feed system clean. Often times, your roof will accumulate dirt, ash, and debris from nearby or surrounding trees. Diversion is especially important when collecting drinking water for drinking. The first rain of the season will wash the roof clean and you don't want that to get into your barrel, so a water diverter can help. Water diverters keep the initial flushing of dirty water out of your tank, and during subsequent rains you can let the water flow dirt-free into the tank. This can be as simple as attaching a flex hose to the gutter to direct the water to the side during the first storm, or it can be a built-in system controlled by a valve system. Even more complex water deflectors can pump rainwater if necessary.

Shield the downpipe

Another important thing to keep in mind when collecting water from your roof is that some leaves from native trees may still flow into the downspout even after the first rain. These need a filter to catch them. Place a strainer over the downspout and the hole in your barrel or tank to keep them from clogging. A great way to avoid leaves completely is to place a leaf guard over your gutter. There are even filter systems that keep fine dust out. Dust or superfine ash can still get through your screen material.

Keep mosquitos away

A big problem to consider is mosquitoes. A mosquito regards any standing water source as a good breeding ground. To prevent mosquito larvae, use mosquito dunks or another similar product called Bacillus thuringiensis var. Israelensis as this is poisonous to mosquitoes but not to humans or animals. To prevent them from getting into your tank in the first place, build a solid collecting basin with a sealed rain barrel. Do this with a fine mesh over each opening. Cover the inlet opening, decorative top, and overflow opening.

Larger feed systems

If you are going to be dealing with a huge 5000 plus gallon system, your best bet is to get professional help. You will need lots of people to help you move a large tank (or two) and experts to build something that is structurally solid.

If this is the way to go, you know you have a lot of filtering options. For example, you can install a reverse osmosis water purification system that pumps non-potable water through a filtration system that makes it potable. Alternately. Skip the potable option and have a gray water system set up to water your plants like Kevin did.

You can even bury a tank in the ground and save space in your yard. It is possible to make sure your design has plenty of curb appeal. A large barrel with wooden slats around it or a large fenced tank may be more appealing to someone interested in collecting rainwater, but not at the expense of looks.

frequently asked Questions

Medium feed systemProfessional medium-sized systems are available for more than the average barrel size.

Q: In which states is it illegal to collect rainwater?

A: It is legal in every state to collect rainwater. In some federal states, however, there are requirements. Check with your county to determine the best options for you before setting up anything.

Q: Can you turn rainwater into drinking water?

A: Local regulations determine whether it is legal to collect rainwater for drinking. However, this is possible with the appropriate filter technology.

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