Rainwater harvesting is a great way to get free water for your homestead. It also helps with your water bill (especially here in Arizona) and if you are in a state that gets more rain then it will help keep it from draining into your (or your neighbor's) yard or basement. I came across this great infographic on rainwater harvesting (many thanks to CustomMade for letting me use it). It shows you how to actively harvest rainwater.
I am having a lot of luck with passive rainwater harvesting, thanks to this great book by Brad Lancaster. The book also goes into more active forms. It is very detailed and is truly an excellent reference. I have not set up an active system yet, but I hope to do so eventually! I have some barrels ready to go!
Passive rainwater harvesting is very easy to do and has yielded some great results for us. The next time it rains take note where that rain falls. Then you can landscape around that. I did some very simple changes and my trees have doubled their growth compared to the year before. I found a few of them were in a “dry” area of the yard. I watered them, of course, but rainwater is better for plants (especially in my hard water area) and it is a heck of a lot cheaper too. I found where the water was going after the rain and simply created a way for that water to flow to the trees. It is a great way to utilize the water that falls on your yard (and also helps you know where to plant the next time you want to put new landscaping in). I also started utilizing hay as a mulch around my trees. The hay definitely seems to hold the water a lot longer than other types of mulch that I have tried.
Active rainwater harvesting is actually collecting rain and moving it elsewhere. The most common is off of a rooftop. You can use the gutter system on your roof to direct the water to a cistern or rain barrel and then you can use that water for your landscape needs. Active rainwater harvesting costs more than passive rainwater harvesting and can take more work to set up. It is the more common type, however, and usually the type that people think of when you hear “rainwater harvesting”.
If you already have a gutter system in place then you are already half way to having an active rainwater harvesting system set up. Just get a few rain barrels and start collecting the rain. If your barrel is not large enough to contain all of the runoff then try to have the excess drain to a rain garden. That is another great way to keep that extra rainwater out of your basement. You can always get a rain barrel large enough to collect all of it. Then you can use the rain wherever and whenever you want!
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