Backyard | Gardening & Landscaping | Outdoor Projects

4 Creative Ways to Collect Rainwater without a Gutter

Here are four creative ways that you can collect rainwater without a gutter close by. These ideas and tips can save time and money! Be sure to also check out our posts on building a self-watering bed and building a backyard greenhouse!

Collecting rainwater is nothing new, and we have our ancestors to thank for that! From cisterns built into the floors of houses in Southwest Asia to the aqueducts in Rome, it’s a tale as old as time.

The concept is pretty simple: collect rainwater without a gutter as it falls, store it in a vessel, and then use it when needed. With a sound rainwater harvesting system, you’ll never have to worry about a dry garden again!

Collect rainwater without a gutter

Benefits of Collecting Rainwater

Collecting rainwater helps both us and the environment. Let’s see how!

It’s as Natural as it gets!

Nature’s very own water filtration system is perfectly capable of bringing pure and contaminant-free water right to your home. The absence of salts and minerals makes it soft, which makes it even better.

It’s Ideal For Plants

Plants thrive and flourish when watered with harvested water. 

There’s no denying the plethora of benefits rainwater offers: it is neutral in pH, free of fluorides and chloramines (chlorine), and even flushes out the salt buildup in soil, improving your garden’s health considerably. 

It’s Easy

The build-it-yourself method for a basic system that collects rainwater without a gutter isn’t difficult at all. And the best part? It’s no trouble to maintain and operate either.  

With a little bit of patience and the right tools, you can put together a rainwater harvesting system with your own hands in no time. 

All you need is some basic technical know-how and some simple skills. The labor costs for installation are also low, and maintenance requires less time and energy than you think. 

Get Your Water’s Worth

Although technically a “free” resource, the actual cost of water turns out to be quite expensive. 

If your water bill has ever caused you to break out in a sweat, rainwater is an excellent way to save some money. Water falling onto your property has zero cost. All you have to do is collect it and use it later.  

Rainwater harvesting also goes a long way in benefiting communities as a whole. It does this by reducing the need for importing water as well as decreasing the expenditure on water treatment and distribution.

Reap the Benefits

Harvested rainwater can keep your garden lush and green even during the hottest summer days. 

Collecting rainwater can be especially helpful in places with unpredictable weather and arid environments. During dry spells, a handy rainwater collection setup is all you need to help you deal with drought.

Apart from reducing the impact of dry and wet spells, rainwater harvesting also lessens the effects of stormwater runoff (fertilizers, chemicals, pollutants). 

Go Green

A self-reliant and sustainable rainwater harvesting system is the perfect addition to your environment-friendly household. Restoring the water cycle in urban landscapes is one of the most important ways to conserve water and mitigate the impacts of climate change

Paying attention to your water usage and making conservation efforts at home is the perfect place to start. You can even choose to go a step further by using recycled materials for your project.

Slow, Spread, Sink, Store to Save Groundwater

Rainwater harvesting gives underground water the chance to recharge. By preventing rainwater from emptying into storm drains and ponds, you contribute to the improvement of the groundwater table both in terms of quantity and quality. 

This in turn reduces the need for digging deep in order to access groundwater, cutting down on costs and preventing damage to the soil.

Stop Spoiling the Soil

Flooding and soil erosion are two of the most common problems during the rainy season. Collecting rainwater doesn’t just lessen the impact of floods in low-lying areas, it also blocks surface water contamination with pollutants from stormwater runoff. 

Be Prepared In Case of an Emergency

Having an independent water supply during emergencies can be a life-saver. A backup water source is a real game-changer in any scenario, whether your primary water source is unavailable, of poor quality, or simply too costly. 

Collecting & Using Rainwater

There are several ways to use rainwater once you’ve collected it. What you choose will depend on the amount of water you gather, the storage system you have, and the frequency of rainfall in your region.

If you have the right equipment, you can utilize rainwater to make potable water. Otherwise, use it for non-drinking purposes like watering your flower beds, washing your car, or even bathing your dog. 

Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) Techniques

Before figuring out the best way to gather rainwater, let’s learn the 101 on rainwater harvesting techniques. The three main ways to harvest rainwater is from:

Roof-tops: Rainwater that falls on the roof of a house is diverted into a storage container. 

Runoff surface water: This is rainwater that flows and gathers in local water bodies like ponds or tanks. 

Underground tanks: rainwater drained through the soil is collected and pumped out for use. 

Steps on how to gather rainwater

The components of rainwater harvesting are the same across all systems and include:

  1. A catchment area: The first point of contact for rainfall to collect.
  2. A conveyance system: A network of pipes to move collected rainwater. 
  3. A storage container: A vessel in which collected rainwater is saved. 
  4. A treatment plan: A method to make the collected rainwater safe for use.
  5. A distribution strategy: A way to move the water from the rainwater tank for access.

Types of Rainwater Collection

Gutters are a protective feature that drains water away from the house. They are vital in keeping walls dry when it rains and can reduce the risk of splashback on the siding. 

However, not every home has a gutter, and this shouldn’t stop you from devising a way to collect rainwater without one. 

1. DIY Rain Barrel

A simple, cheap, and easy solution to collect rainwater without a gutter in your garden is a nifty rain barrel. The perfect project for beginners, this small setup is a wonderful option for even amateur DIYers. 

In a nutshell, a rain barrel collection without gutters is simply a container for storing rainfall when it rains. With a few modifications to prevent insects and overflow, your rain barrel system can be ready in about an hour. And since you can buy everything you need for under $35, it’s a cost-effective and efficient addition to your yard.

2. Tarp

A rainwater collection tarp is anything but ordinary! Lightweight and easy to set up, even a tiny tarp can help in collecting rainwater without a downpipe or gutter. Transform an average tarp into a rainwater catcher while camping outdoors or during emergencies.

With a heavy-duty tarp, a bit of cordage, supporting poles or trees, and a storage container, you can set up your new system in no time. 

The key to catching rainwater with a tarp is making sure it drips just right. Angle the tarp into the mouth of the container using a stick or heavy object, and you’re all set.

Another method is to make a hole in the center of the tarp for the collected water to drip through.   

Alternatively, if you have a pre-existing sloped structure like a garden shed roof, just drape the tarp over it and let water from each of the corners collect in a barrel. 

3. Catchment Surface

Have you ever wondered how to collect rainwater without a roof? Well, one of the easiest ways to collect rainwater without a gutter or roof is by using a sloping land surface. All it takes is unobstructed access to the sky and containers for collection and storage.

A terrace, road, or even a courtyard are just a few examples of places where rainfall might fall. The tilted surface leads the runoff rainwater from the surface into containers for later use.

4. Diverters

Gutterless roof diverter systems are one of the many ways people can collect rainwater from their roofs. 

This method involves using a J- or L-shaped metal strip beneath the roofing that redirects the water flow to prevent water damage to the walls and siding. Collected rainwater flows along the roof’s drainage system in a downpipe to the storage tank. 

This allows the diverter to separate the “first-flush” water from fresh rainwater, significantly improving the water quality in rainwater tanks. The diverted first flush then enters a separate reservoir to prevent contamination from the roof or in the pipes.

Other Methods

Another way to collect rainwater without a gutter is to use an inverted umbrella or large funnel as a “rain-saucer” to gather water.

Or, if you have the required permits, you can always set up a rain garden. Just dig a pit in the ground and make your own rainwater pond. Plants that are tolerant of wet conditions can be grown in rain gardens, and rainwater can be used to water them.

Rainwater Collection FAQs

How Long Can Rainwater Be Stored?

Rainwater can be stored for upward of a week, but long-term storage depends on several factors. For indefinite storage, the main things to keep away are light, mold, insects, and animals.  

While water has no expiration date, contaminants can make it unfit for use. So figuring out a water treatment plan for your rainwater harvesting system is a must if you’re aiming to extend the shelf life of your collected rainwater. 

Are you allowed to collect rainwater in every state?

The simple answer is rainwater harvesting is legal in all 50 states in America. But rainwater harvesting depends on the local guidelines of the individual state. 
While it isn’t illegal to collect rainwater, some states have stricter legal regulations. Some states like Colorado need special water rights permits to store water, while others like Oregon allow only rooftop rainwater harvesting. 
Texas, Virginia, and Rhode Island, on the other hand, offer a tax break for rainwater harvesting. Always check in with the local authorities before you begin setting yours up. 

Can you make a rain barrel without gutters?

Yes! Even homes constructed without roof gutters can make use of a rain barrel. Be sure to read the article above for four ways!

Do rain barrels attract mosquitoes?

A mesh secured over the mouth of your rain barrel will keep out mosquitoes. Just ensure that the mesh holes are around 1/16th of an inch, and if you want to be extra safe, add an extra layer of the mesh screen.

Do rain barrels freeze in winter?

When temperatures fall below freezing, the stored water can severely damage the barrel as it turns into ice. No matter the material, rock-hard ice can spell trouble for even the hardiest of rainwater tanks. 
If you live in a colder region, you might need to “winterize” your rain barrel when the temperature drops by draining it and storing it upside down. This will save you the cost and hassle of replacing parts when the weather turns sunny again.

Can you attach a hose to a rain barrel?

Yes, a rain barrel or threaded spigot can be used as a water source for a hose. If you wish to attach a garden hose to your rain barrel, use an adapter or spigot with a rubber gasket to prevent leaks.

How do I keep mold out of my rain barrel?

Direct sunlight and stagnant water provide the ideal conditions for algal growth. Using black or darker-colored barrels, covering the opening, and draining unused water reduces the risk of mold growth. 
To avoid mold contamination, frequently wash out the barrel with a mixture of bleach and water (1/8 tsp–1/4 tsp of bleach per gallon of water as per the CDC).

How much rainwater can you collect in a catchment area?

The amount of rainwater collected depends on the size of the catchment surface and rainfall. 
Harvested water (in gallons) = Catchment Area (in square feet) x Rainfall Depth (in inches) x 0.623

How much rainwater can you collect using a tarp?

Depending on the size of the tarp, the amount of rainfall, and the duration of rain, the collected water can be calculated using the following formula:
X*Y = tarp size 
R = inches of rain

Do rain barrels have to be elevated?

The best way to ensure a steady hose pressure with harvested rainwater is to let gravity do its job. Achieve this by raising the barrel a foot or so off the ground onto a level and sturdy surface in an easy-access location.   Black Trash Can Repurposed into being a DIY Rain Barrel

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