Gardening & Landscaping | Outdoor Projects

Here’s how to collect rainwater: Ultimate guide to rainwater harvesting

If you are thinking about collecting rainwater, here’s the ultimate guide to rain harvesting systems.

What is Rainwater Collection?

Rainwater collection, rainwater harvesting, rainwater catchment, and roof water collection all pretty much mean the same thing. It’s a process where rainwater is captured, diverted, collected, and stored for later use. 

Carried out to obtain an incredibly clean form of water, rainwater collection can be done through a variety of different methods and techniques on various surfaces. Yet, it is most often done on rooftops. It’s a smart way to reuse stormwater runoff that otherwise would have just washed away and makes a great alternative source of water for certain uses around the house. Yet, rooftops aren’t the only way to collect rainwater.

DIY Rainwater Collection

What are the Advantages of Rainwater Collection?

Before you start wondering how to collect rainwater, you might want to learn why rainwater harvesting is such a great idea. 

The financial benefits of building a rain harvesting system in your home is one of the main reasons people do it. An additional source of water supply can go a long way in reducing a household’s water and energy bills. Moreover, rainwater collection systems are pretty easy to use and maintain too, saving you even more time and money!

Once you learn the best methods on how to collect rainwater, you’ll see that the only real cost apart from the initial installation is for the treatment of the water. And if any parts ever do need replacing, all you have to do is take a quick trip down to your local hardware store for a cheap repair. 

Another awesome benefit of building your own rainwater collection system is that once you know the basics, adopting and adding in new features is pretty straightforward. Modifications and even relocating to accommodate changes can be done without any complex calculations.  

One lesser-known benefit of learning how to harvest rainwater at home is the tax exemptions! In case you needed any more convincing, some states offer credits to those who incorporate rainwater collection systems into their homes. 

Sometimes, collecting rainwater turns into more of a necessity than an option. If your state is prone to extreme summers, droughts, or water shortages, the rain you save up throughout the year can turn into a real lifesaver. Moreover, even a single barrel of rainwater makes a big difference. Especially if there’s a crisis like a fire, making it an excellent backup during emergencies. 

If you’re into healthy living, the benefits of learning how to collect rainwater are even more extensive! Rainwater is one of the purest forms of water, free from many chemicals thanks to Earth’s natural filtration system.  

Why is this important?

Stored rainwater is a superb alternative to groundwater. With a rainwater collection system at home, you can rest easy whenever the groundwater levels decrease or the water quality dips. 

While mostly used for non-drinking purposes, adding a good filtration unit can make rainwater potable. Free of sodium and other heavy metals, filtered rainwater has even proven to be quite safe for consumption.   

Those with a green thumb know that plants love rainwater!

This is because rainwater has a distinct lack of chlorine that is commonly used in tap water to make it potable. So, if you want a happy vegetable garden, read on to learn how to collect rainwater for plants. At the very least, you’ll be left with a gorgeous bunch of flowers to show for it! 

A neat fact about rainwater is that it has zero hardness. This means that you can use it to wash most surfaces without any ugly scaling stains. Using soft water for cleaning appliances prevents damage and extends shelf life. 

What Can You Use Stored Rainwater for?

What are the ways you can use your rainwater? Pretty much exactly the same ways we use water from regular water sources!

Cleaning the Rainwater

Before we get to that, however, it’s important to mention that to drink collected rainwater, you first need to eliminate all of the dirt and microbes.

You can do this by filtering and boiling it thoroughly before you use it for drinking or cooking. 

If your plan is to use it as a non-potable water source, add a simple filtration system and use it for your everyday household chores. You can utilize it for purposes like washing your car, appliances, and your driveway. 

Many people use rainwater to run their washing machines and dishwashers. The soft nature of the water makes it much easier on fabric and dishes, plus it keeps your devices running much more efficiently. 

When living in a rainy state, take advantage of the weather and divert your rainwater to the baths and toilets. The reduced chemicals in the rainwater will make your hot showers much kinder on your skin. Pro tip: No hard water means sparkly clean bathroom tiles and taps! 

Have a furry buddy?

Fill a tub with some collected and treated rainwater and scrub-a-dub-dub away the muck and mud! It’s also a smart way to keep swimming pools summer-ready without worrying about your water bill going through the roof. 

Landscaped gardens thrive on rainwater. Irrigate your gardens with rainwater to make your plants lush and green all year long. Tiny ponds and fountains in your backyard can be kept filled with collected rainwater too, reducing the effort and costs needed to keep your landscaping looking pretty! 

Miss waking up to birdsong? Set up a birdbath connected to your rainwater harvesting system, and you’ll soon have a steady stream of feathered visitors dropping by to serenade you.

How Can I Harvest Rainwater?

Now, let’s get down to business and answer the question; how to collect rainwater at home? From a basic DIY to a complicated rainwater harvesting system, there are many innovative ways to collect rainwater. 

How to build a rainwater collection system to suit your personal needs depends on many factors: what you plan to use the water for, how much you plan to invest, what are the maintenance requirements, and how much water you need. 

Before we dive in, there are a few things you will need to know and remember. 

First, you do not need gutters to set up a rainwater harvesting system. If you’re surprised, check out this article where we go over 4 creative ways on how to collect rainwater without gutters

Worried about how to collect rainwater without a roof? Rain barrels are the cheapest and simplest way to collect rainwater. Our guide on how to set up a rain barrel system is the perfect start for DIYers looking to get into rainwater harvesting. 

Another popular method to collect rainwater is the dry system. Technically just a larger version of the rain barrel, this method also includes a gutter system to divert runoff rainwater into a storage tank nearby. If you’re wondering why it’s called a “dry” system, it’s because it’s based on the concept that once the rain stops, the pipes dry out, as they aren’t responsible for storing the water. 

The wet system of rainwater harvesting typically involves a network of connected pipes that lead to an underground collection container. This system is called “wet” because the pipes are always full of water, even when it isn’t raining. 

How Can I Make a Rainwater Collection System?

The 101 on how to collect rainwater always involves the same basic components: a rainwater catchment surface, a conveyance system, a storage space, a distribution network, and a treatment plan. 

Whether it’s simple and inexpensive or complex and costly, all rainwater collection systems begin at the point of collection and end at the supply. 

Rainwater Catchment System

Simply put, a rainwater catchment system is an area where rainwater is gathered. This generally refers to a roof that functions sort of like a giant funnel to capture falling rainwater. 

Since most roofs come with gutters to divert water away from the house, it only takes a few modifications to set up a system where runoff stormwater is redirected to flow into a storage container. 

Wondering how to make a rain catcher? It depends on three things; its size, location, and material. 

While nearly all roofs are suitable for collection, sheet metal roofs are the clear winner in the rainwater collection category. The material allows water to glide smoothly across the surface, reducing the risk of mold and algal growth (unlike wood). 

Conveyance System

A network of gutters, downspouts, pipes and anything else used to move collected rainwater from its source to the storage space is what constitutes the conveyance system. 

Even though most houses come with gutters, it’s important to check the exact size of your gutters to ensure the effective rerouting of rainwater. Homes with big roofs should opt for 6″ wide gutters at the top and 4″ wide downspouts for better water movement. 

Storage Space

Rainwater collection tanks can be either at or below ground level. How to store rainwater depends on its location, volume of water stored, and the kind of water filtration system. 

Although the material used and size of the container can be adjusted to suit individual requirements, it’s a general rule of thumb that when it comes to location, tanks should be placed at a height to increase water pressure. 

Distribution Network

The collected rainwater is distributed through gravity, pipes or pumps from the point of storage to the point of use. Even something as basic as a hose can be used to utilize the water. 

Treatment Plan

Water treatment plans depend on two main factors: water quality in the container and the use of the stored water. 

The system involves installing debris removers even before the storage stage. These are for filtering the “first flows” of leaves and large debris, thereby preventing the clogging up of the conveyance system. The “first flow” is basically the first rain that collects during a shower that usually contains built-up sediments from the catchment area. 

Water filtration systems (like the Burkey Water Filtration System) can be used to thoroughly cleanse the rainwater of chemicals and particles before using it for consumption. Otherwise, simple screens to keep out insects, disinfectants to keep mold in check, and basic mechanical filters are sufficient for gardening and domestic use. 

Gutter vs No gutter

To gutter or not to gutter? Isn’t that the question of the hour? The answer isn’t quite as straightforward as we’d like. Collecting water in the right way is extremely important in ensuring your water is safe, clean, and useful. 

While gutters are a definite boon when present, sometimes homes might not have them or not have suitable gutters. For those in this situation, there’s no need to worry about missing out. From tarps, diverters and barrels, there are quite a few ways to collect rainwater despite the absence of a gutter. 

Those with a gutter should check for durability and upkeep requirements. A leaky, rusty gutter would contaminate your water supply. A clogged gutter wouldn’t help either. Gutters keep your walls safe and prevent flooding, so we recommend a biannual annual checking anyway! 


What Is The Best Way To Collect Rainwater?

The most cost-effective way to collect rainwater is by the use of a rainwater barrel. The technique is simple for beginners and can be assembled in just about an hour.

How Do You Keep Rainwater Clean?

Rainwater can be purified with filtration systems and disinfectants. Routine cycling of the water is extremely important for storage.

How Long Can Rainwater Be Stored?

If routinely cleaned and maintained, rainwater can be stored for as long as needed.

How do you keep rainwater from stagnating?

Constant cycling of the water keeps water fresh for a longer period of time.

Why do plants grow better with rainwater?

The absence of chlorine and other chemicals, as well as the presence of naturally dissolved minerals, promotes the growth of plants when watered with rainwater.

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