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Sneaky Ways To Collect Rainwater

Collecting rainwater is one of the most Earth-friendly practices around. It is also healthy, because it is easy to purify for drinking (especially in rural areas) and is much healthier for watering the garden and landscape than is tap water.

Tap water cannot compare to rainwater for washing hair – indeed, washing your whole body. It is naturally soft; no synthetic softening materials required. (And if you’ve ever tasted water from a tap that was softened artificially…YUCK!).

Perhaps the most compelling reasons of all to use rainwater instead of tap water are first, that some of the underground aquifers in the U.S. are drying up; and second, groundwater in all parts of the country is polluted.

You may want to harvest rainwater from your property, but either your HOA or your city or even your state may not allow you to put gutters on your roof and collect water in barrels or tanks. What’s a person to do in such a case?

I have a few ideas, most of them inspired by the twenty inches or so of rain we’ve had in the past month! (The annual average in SE Oklahoma is something like forty inches.)

1. Dig swales and basins


You need to have bigger than a postage-stamp backyard, as we used to have, to dig swales. Swales are made when you dig little ditches on contour to the land, and pile up the dirt right next to the ditches. These swales collect water when it rains, and because they fill up like little ponds, the water in them takes longer to absorb into the dirt. When the water does finally absorb, the swale holds the water, dramatically slowing down its absorption into the rest of the landscape. So you can plant things up on the swales and not need to irrigate them very much, if at all.

Basins can be used even in small front yards or backyards. Simple dig a basin around a tree – or, better yet, where you’re about to plant a tree – or where you want a small flower or vegetable garden. The basin will prevent the rainwater from simply running away from the plants; instead, it will hold the water in the basin, slowly watering the plants and thus reducing the need for irrigation.

2. Wheelbarrows and wagons

I had my husband dump our wheelbarrow one evening because there were mosquito larvae in it. That night, we had five and half inches of rain! The wheelbarrow had been completely refilled.


You can use wagons, tubs, or any other container of the sort to do the same thing.

3. PVC bowls

We have been accidentally collecting rainwater from the mini-greenhouse for a couple of months now. Check out this photo:


Jerry built the back higher than the front so that rain would run down off the plastic, but, oops, it hasn’t quite worked that way.

Even half an inch of rain will cause around three gallons of water, maybe more, to collect in that middle front part of the greenhouse – and we’ve had a lot of days lately where we got considerably more than half an inch of rain! In fact, Jerry has been filling up the water jugs mostly from the wheelbarrow and greenhouse in the past couple of weeks, we’ve had so much rain. He has hardly touched the water storage tanks.

But you don’t have to build a greenhouse to do this. Simply fashion a rectangular-shaped structure that is higher than it is wide or long out of PVC, drape some six mil. plastic down inside the structure, and tie it well to the top of the structure with wire or plastic ties. It would look like a large garbage bag hanging down inside the frame.

Mini ponds

You could also dig a small pond in your backyard and line it with pond liner (if you cannot find any locally, six mil. plastic will probably do, although it may need to be replaced occasionally). If you want clean rainwater, scoop it out into five gallon buckets as soon as you can after the water collects so it doesn’t have a chance to get dirty.

Collecting rainwater can be done in a myriad of ways. If you have been despairing because you are not allowed to collect water from your roof, be inspired by one of the above ways and start harvesting rain the next time a shower comes your way.

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