Rainwater Harvesting

Using rainwater to supplement traditional sources of water is one of the best conservation methods a gardener can employ. It is estimated that between 30 and 50 percent of water use is for outdoor purposes. Saving potable water for potable uses helps reduce the predicted growth in demand for this precious resource. With a planned design that includes a rainwater harvesting system, your outdoor space can be inexpensive to maintain while providing more enjoyment than a costly maintenance demanding landscape requiring excessive labor, machines, and chemicals.

A rainwater storage system can be the cornerstone to creating a wonderful outdoor living experience. Using collected rainwater that is free of chlorine, fluoride and other minerals added to municipal water sources, benefits organic vegetable and herb gardens, as well as fruit and citrus trees. Drought tolerant plants can be watered with rainwater during severe droughts, when necessary. Managing rainwater for supplemental outdoor watering needs during times of drought can be tricky. And if this is a predominant concern, having as much storage capacity as possible is smart.

The cost for domestic water is relatively inexpensive these days and makes the return on investment of a rainwater system low. Water supply experts agree that future municipal water costs will rise. There is an important benefit of having a supply of water during mandatory water restriction days that are occurring more frequently these days. And looking beyond the costs, there is a connection between a natural water source and native plant materials that provides rewards beyond gardening.

This relationship can exist without the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides. Both time and money is saved, as well as reducing downstream pollution due to the introduction of chemicals into the environment. Bugs and birds will thrive in a native landscape and contribute to the gardening experience. The use of rainwater in a native landscape connects these natural cycles. A rainwater collection and distribution system can provide many benefits to the home gardener and naturalist.

Landscape Gardening

Plants love rainwater because it is free of salts and other minerals that can harm root growth. As rainwater percolates into the soil, it forces salts down and away from root zones, allowing roots to grow making plants more drought tolerant. To understand more about best management practices in gardening, a program has been established in Texas to become a Master Gardener. This program instructs the techniques for native landscaping and proper gardening methods. Remember to always invest in the soil for successful productivity.

Gardening for Wildlife

Whether your home is on a small urban lot or a multi-acre rural tract, you can have a natural experience with the plants and animals that are native to your region. Drought tolerant native plants can provide insect and bird habitat that provide support to an area’s biological diversity. Using rainwater to aid in the creation and the maintenance of such an outdoor living space can provide many rewards. In fact, your landscape could be registered as a Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.

Getting Started

To plan for your rainwater system, look for a good place to put a storage tank that will be the best point of collection. (It doesn't have to be directly next to the house.) The best roof catchment material is a raised ridge metal roof. Asphalt shingles and clay tiles can work just fine using techniques to filter material debris. Filtering tricks also work to prevent vegetative debris from entering a storage tank.

Distributing water to areas needing rainwater is easy and should be considered for plants and never for sod, or turf grass. The most efficient method for irrigation of a vegetable garden (and other plants) is a drip system. A small pump is usually needed to distribute rainwater depending upon a garden’s layout and demands.

If you calculate your annual estimated rainwater collected volumes, you come to understand that retrieving as much rain as possible is a good idea. A good rule of thumb is to provide at least enough storage volume for one quarter of an average year’s total to provide gardening water between rain events.

Provided by AgriLife Extension at the Texas A&M System web site, this calculator will help determine cumulative storage and supplemental water use for a rainwater harvesting system on your property. HydroCatch can answer any question you have about the design and installation of a collection and distribution system.