8 Reasons You Should Be Collecting Rainwater

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by Kristen Chapple

Collecting rainwater is a vital prep. As an added bonus, it helps you save both money and the environment while preventing possible property damage.

Rainwater generally runs out of the downspouts, through the lawns, and into the trench drains during the rainy seasons. This water then goes to the storm drains, channeled to the nearest stream or lake. During heavy storms, this water can destroy properties as it finds its way to the storm drains. Sometimes, trash or pollution goes with the water into the lake. 

Why not harvest and store rainwater in barrels and reap the many benefits?

By harvesting rainwater during the rainy season, not only do you save money, but you are also helping to save the environment. Instead of allowing the rainwater to go to waste and possibly damage your property, collect and store the rainwater in barrels. Barrels can harvest and hold about 80 gallons of rainwater per rainfall. 

Rain barrels are unique containers that can help you collect and store rainwater from the downspouts and roof for future use. A rain barrel can reduce the amount of rainwater in the storm drains by collecting the roof runoffs. Remember, rainwater is chlorine-free; therefore, you can use it to water your garden plants and organic farms.

EcoPeanut offers a great review of rain barrels to consider.

When installing a barrel, ensure that it has a screen to eliminate the debris. Your barrel should also have a tight connection where the rainwater enters and a reliable cover to prevent algae buildup and mosquito breeding.      

Collecting rainwater will help you be better prepared.

Obviously one of the best reasons to collect rainwater is you can survive up to three weeks without food, but only three days without water! Daisy’s book, The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide, offers a step-by-step plan with straightforward information you can easily follow. You will quickly learn how to:

  • Store fresh water
  • Collect rainwater
  • Purify water from lakes & rivers
  • Dig a well for groundwater
  • Gain the tools to keep large stores untainted for long periods of time
  • Test the water you collect for dangerous toxins
  • Treat water-related illnesses that are commonly contracted during a disaster

Reduce your water bills

Owning water barrels can be one of the best solutions for people who pay monthly water bills to use the city water supply. Installing barrels can help you reduce your monthly water bills. With thousands of gallons of water falling with every single rainfall, you can conserve the pure rainwater and use it to water your garden and lawn for several weeks and keep your entire compound clean without ever opening the city supply.

You can also use rainwater to wash your pets, houses, and vehicles.

Rainwater grows healthier plants.

It’s a known fact that plants are not huge fans of tap water. Tap water is treated with numerous chemicals, including chlorine, for disinfection purposes that don’t work well with some nutrients that our plants need. But with rainwater, you will never have to worry about these chemicals since it’s a natural source of water that can help promote certain plants’ growth. After all, a considerable percentage of the plants growing in our backyards are prone to chlorine toxicity.

Therefore, rainwater can provide a sustainable water source that can quench the thirst of outdoor and indoor plants. Plants look lush and greener during the rainy season thanks to a large percentage of nitrogen present in the air that rain collects as it falls. Nitrogen helps rejuvenate the plants.  

It can be a source of water during dry seasons and droughts.

Most people who reside in arid or semi-arid regions may think that owning a barrel is pointless because they will never get enough water. But did you know that it takes less than an inch of rain to fill a rain barrel, depending on your roof’s size? With a thousand square foot roof and an inch of rainfall, you can collect more than 600 gallons of water.

With a bigger roof, gutters, and strategically installed downspouts, you can collect more than enough water. The harvested water can help you maintain your eco-friendly garden during the dry seasons.

It can protect your property from flooding and rain damage.

Installing gutters and downspouts to help you collect water during the rainy season can prevent flooding in your backyard. Collecting water can help you control the ground’s moisture levels around your home’s foundation by preventing a huge amount of the water from hitting the ground.

A strategically installed water harvesting system can help direct rainwater away from your home’s foundation to where you want to collect it, which also prevents water from flooding in your neighborhood.

It helps reduce the stress on stormwater runoff systems.

In industrialized places, buildings, concrete, and impervious surfaces prevent the water from being soaked into the grounds. Therefore, the water flows into the city’s sewage systems. Residential stormwater runoff systems in most places are limited. Allowing too much water to flow through them can be quite catastrophic. Residential stormwater runoff systems can reach capacity when the sewer system is blocked or during heavy rainfall.

Therefore, harvesting rainwater in barrels can help divert it from the storm drains. Rain barrels can help you reduce the amount of rainwater getting into the overloaded residential stormwater systems. 

You’ll help create natural waterways and healthy drinking water.

When the rainwater hits the ground of an uninhabited region, it gets cleaned out, including the water that has picked up some pollutants. And that is because the soil acts as a filter. But when it runs along streets and rooftops, it collects many pollutants and flows into the drinking water treatment site and natural waterways.

So, you can prevent a considerable percentage of the contaminants from reaching the natural waterways in your hometown by collecting the water.

It prevents soil erosion

Collecting the rainwater in barrels can help slow down the water flowing down the roofs, which can help reduce soil erosion. Soil erosion can get rid of the nutrient-rich topsoil and even damage your home’s foundation. Installing a barrel in your home can help prevent soil erosion in your region by reducing the amount of runoff water.

What’s not to love about collecting rainwater? 

Harvesting rainwater using barrels is an excellent way of getting free water replenished every season at no extra fee. It is a great way to ensure that your plants get nitrogen-rich and chlorine-free water all summer long. 

Have you collected rainwater? Do you have any tips or techniques to share with other readers? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

8 Reasons You Should Be Collecting Rainwater
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37 Responses

  1. When I was in Afghanistan, there was a drought (more so then usual for that country).
    Villages would go to war with each other over water access. Like no kidding war: Light and medium machine guns, RPGs.

    We take water for granted, but it is a valuable resource.

    Look around your property and see where and how the water flows. Takes some money, but some drainage ditches, or collection ponds are good for directing and retaining water.

  2. My concern is that it is a mosquito breeding ground, with all the diseases that go along with this insect.

    1. Use a 5 gallon bucket or 55 gallon drum and use bungee cords to keep window screen covering the top. That also keeps leaves out.

    2. You should be able to construct a cover for your barrels from the same screen wire that keeps mosquitoes–and other critters–out of your home…

  3. I think that roof run-off water collection has a legitimate and valuable place in one’s “bag of tricks” but it has some limits. The easy limits to overcome might include the need to clean such run-off water because of bird droppings on the roof or even some chemicals in some types of shingles, etc Those are easy problems to fix, but the bigger one is either a short-term bug-out OR a long-term and potentially permanent INCH (I’m Never Coming Home) type bug-out where you can’t take your roof and catch barrels with you.

    The need to know how (and have the relevant equipment) to clean water found while on the move (whether on land or over water) can compensate for not being able to bring your root and rain barrels with you. Some (not all) of those cleaning methods can work just as well for both fixed locations or on-the-move situations that might even translate into newer permanent locations. Sorting through those water cleaning methods would suggest considering such criteria as portability for your likely mode of travel (size and weight), longevity (such as water filter life and cleanability), cost, energy sources and their likely availability (electric, fuels, solar, gravity, etc) needed, the range of contaminants a given cleaning method might remove, etc.

    An obvious question is if you possibly might have to bug-out, short or long term, could the same water cleaning technology you choose for use at home also be suitable for travel use? OR would it need to be a different lighter weight and different technology-based method for portability?

    This is not the place to rehash the ever-raging arguments among marketeers and users of various water filters, reverse osmosis equipment, water distillers, etc. Just be aware of whatever method(s) and equipment you choose, there will always be those to tell you “you should have done it my way instead.”

    –Lewis

    1. -Lewis,
      Bill Mollison’s book, Permaculture, A Designers’ Manual, has a section about water filtration (p.173) using sand, plants, and then activated charcoal.
      IF you can find the book, snatch it up. A quick online search, it is going for about $500, if it can be found.

      1. that sounds like an interesting book.
        Outside the duck pen I’m digging a shallow water chanel for when the ducks pond is cleaned. The water will go to two formed black plastic ponds. I have seed to start cattails, water cress, and a rice from India. Any overflow because of rains or washing the duck pond will go out onto the garden. The cattails and water cress in the first pond will help clean the water while the rice in the 2nd pond is potentially food for us.

    2. Our BOBs includes 2 filtering devices, purification tablets and some cheese cloth. Also metal cups and fire starters, even a little alcohol burner. That gives some options.
      Here at home I live in the foothills of a mountain. I have 2 wells. Both hit an underground river. Its flowing and cold. Average temp is 38°. We drink our untreated well water. For years I operated a little private school here so I was required water tests for bacteria monthly and a more comprehensive test covering chemicals and minerals ect every 4 years. We consistently had some of the best water in the state. Once a month we put 1 cup of bleach in the well and open every faucet for 10 minutes to make sure the pipes stay disinfected. We’ve been drinking this water since 1977.
      We even have a trace of gold in our water. Probably from within the mountain. The river is in an old lava tube so it’s quite protected. In the desert we know water is valuable. I call it my liquid gold.

      1. Out of curiosity, have you had the water radioactivity levels checked? It’s the presence of gold that makes me wonder.

    1. A lot of this is location specific.
      If you live in the Desert SW, trying to collect and save rain water is basically a joke.
      In fact, if you think you are going to survive a SHTF on rainwater, think again. Most places don’t get enough constant rain fall to do that.

      It is a “fad” right now, but realistically you will never get enough to do much.
      According to statistics “…Each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day, for indoor home uses.”
      In Refugee camps ( a true test of SHTF living), the minimal amount of water is considered to be 10 to 15 gallons per person, per day, (not including any water for gardening or flushing toilets).

      Do the math… How many days water would a 55 gal barrel last you? For a family of four, about 5 days at most.
      How much rain fall does your area get per year and how big is your catchment area?
      For every 1” of rain and 1,000 square feet of Catchment area, about 620 gallons are generated
      Subtract about 10% for evaporation and leakage. on long term storage.
      How long of a dry spell do you have in your area? 1 month, 3 months?
      How much would you have to store up to get through that?

      Then there is the issue of purity.
      In our smog filled world, the clouds and rain pick up all those air borne pollutants and absorb them. So not only do you probably have chemical in your roofing materials, but the settled particles of smog sitting on it and whatever the rain picked up in the clouds, before falling in your area.
      Don’t think that is a problem? Read up on “acid rain” and how it is formed. The same process happens with other air borne pollutants also.

      For some people in some locations it may be feasible to store up water. However for a lot of people it will not.

      1. 80-100 gallons of water a day?
        Only if you are taking 30 minute showers, twice a day.
        I think I might use 80-100 gallons of water in a week.

    2. Always but I’m going to upgrade to a metal roof this summer. Also it’s better to use that water for the garden, toilets and other non potable uses if you’ve got worries

  4. I agree with all the reasons for Rainwater Collection. Unfortunately, it’s against the law in my State.

    1. I find it amusing, not in a good way, that some states make it difficult for a person to collect rainwater on their own property. No one owns the clouds nor do they own the water falling. Typical of those that want total control.

    1. “And WHY is it illegal?”

      because water control strongly advances populace control. also, making people afraid to do simple and obvious things like collect rainwater trains them to obey the “authorities” in substantial matters. “a little here, a little there”, and they own you.

      1. It started out more venal than that; they simply wanted to separate you from your money by forcing you to buy water from them.

    2. -Alice,
      The general idea is by collecting rainwater, you are denying people down stream from water.
      Some of these laws were established in the late 1800s, early 1900s with a number of court cases citing these laws (e.g. Arizona vs California, 1931 referenced the Colorado River Compact of 1922).
      In 2020 the Supreme Court declined to hear the most recent case.

  5. For anyone who hasn’t read Daisy’s book–Rain water off the roof does almost always has debris and some unwanted nasties in it. Always put through a good filtration system if you can. (Really, read the book.)

    Adding one important item–after putting all the work into a water collection system remember to disconnect/close it off in the winter if you get a deep freeze where you live. I got busy this year and neglected to do two of my five barrels…..now those two barrels have cracks making them unusable as rain barrels. A truly stupid and expensive mistake.
    But in the spirit of true frugality, two barrels make four big planters.

  6. I have rain barrels to collect rain,I have gutters to direct the rain in the barrels, I have landscaped my property to direct the runoff to areas that are in need of water. Problem is, I live in SE Arizona,and there is no rain

  7. I can’t yet. I need to rent a portion of an acre-foot from someone before I can collect any. (Or buy 1 acre-ft, but I’m going with “poor”.) Then I need to ensure that I can stop my collection process as soon as my right has been reached.

    While Elephant Butte isn’t as nit-picky as some Colorado watersheds, I don’t want to risk my collections being summarily dumped prior to a court decision.

    1. I’ll add that, if your have good filtration and purification systems, you may find it useful to save your urine (and bathwater). It’s kind-of Howard-Hughes-like, but … some dry African nations achieve better results (purer gray water) than our government requires.of drinking water.

  8. When I was a kid in the 50’s my grandparents lived in a small house with a tin roof and a cistern. There were gutters fashioned out of tin. There was one such gutter that could be directed into the cistern or away from the cistern. When it rained they waited 15 minutes for the “stuff” on the roof to wash off, then ran out and moved the movable gutter to where it poured into the cistern. I don’t know if the cistern ever went dry but I remember that it got low sometimes and don’t think they drank the water then. They had no filter, drank and cooked direct from the cistern. Probably a lot more crap in the rain these days. Might not be terribly safe to drink without filtering these days.

  9. We are setting up a system soon primarily for garden use from the roof.
    I’ve setup several of the gutter system runoff kits into barrels and IBC totes.
    The nice thing in the kit is it’s got a winter plug you can put in.

  10. JB Weld makes a product designed for use on water pipes, containers, etc. We used it to patch a large crack in the camper’s potable water tank. It’s held up fine for 2 years so far.

    We do have several rain barrels. We build platforms out of cement blocks. For us, stacking 2 blocks 3 levels high & using an 18×18 paving stone as the top, provides a secure stand for the rain barrel. It also has enough height to let us gravity feed the garden beds.

    Two years ago our area went 10 weeks without rain in late summer. The rain barrels kept the fruit trees & much of the garden going. I was also able to keep a bit of our pasture producing until the fall rains started. That cut down on weeds the next spring.

  11. In a good rain year between rain and snow we average 12″ of moisture a year. We’re officially in a drought. Winter snows and summer rains aren’t much but the summer rains are life to the garden. Natives here speak of rain as female because of its life giving properties. I officially can pump 3 acre ft of water per year from my wells but the runoff on the slight slope here feeds a garden and trees. I still water as well.
    I’ve caught water in storage containers lined up along the drip line of the roof. That watered the garden for most of a month after a good thunderstorm. I have containers now but no catchment in place yet.
    I lived with very little water use after I was first widowed in 2002. No propane for heat for two winters and no hot water except water I heated on my homemade bbq with twigs I gathered on a 4 mile walk just before sunset daily. I’d cook and heat 2 gallons of water. That washed dishes and mixed with some cold water I bathed and washed my long hair in a total of 1 1/2gallons. I have a homemade water filter. A 5 gal container, gravel, playsand and charcoal. My home is under 900 sq ft so not a big roof but I’m working on catching water. Still runoff is mostly chaneled to go to food production areas.
    Two of us drink and cook with less than 3 gal a day. Another 3-5 gal to flush the toilet. Cats, dog, chickens, ducks, and rabbits take a minimum of 4 gal per day. 5 gal a week for a “Navy” bath for 2. Pretty much 12 gal a day x 7 = 84+5=89 per week. I keep 22 gal in the kitchen at all times. I have a manual winch on my second well so I can always get water if necessary. I keep 10 milk jugs filled in rotation to carry water out to the critters. Often there are 3 more gal in the rabbit shed. Water is life here in NM high mountain desert.
    My storage containers are 6, 330 gallon caged totes and 1, 270 gallon tote. Even if filled from the well they could be handy for the growing areas but I’d rather use rainwater. My well water is good but the nitrogen in rain water is even better for growing things.
    I now have sheds that could add to potential collecting area. I may end up putting 2 boards forming a v to funnel water to rainbarrels. Not quite as efficient as gutters but still it works.

  12. We live in SW FL and while rain is plentiful from July-Nov, the rest of the year it is not. We routinely go thru no rain for most of Dec-March which is the growing season. We have 2 55 gallon barrels, set on stands 3’high that collect roof runoff including the fog runoff from just one downspout. I use that water for my 10 veggie containers. That water is transferred, by gravity feed, into 2 40 gallon lidded trash cans inside the lanai where the containers are. We flush 2 toilets twice a day for liquids and whenever solids are deposited. If necessary, we can use pool water to flush. We shower every 3rd day the ‘Navy’ way at 5min duration. Our water/sewer cost is very high: 1 unit is just under $80/month – we keep it at that for 4months then it turns to 2 units. Our neighbors, without gardening at all, routinely use 3-4 units/month costing $130-145/month. I also save sprout water for cooking, dish water, I hand wash, for fruit trees, moringa and katuk.

  13. Have been storing rainwater from eve downspouts for over two decades. Collect from two roofing sections into 5 interconnected 120L barrels on one down spout, and two 80l barrels on the second, both these sites are pumped by submersible pump to two 1,000 litre totes at the top of my property. When the system is full after a few days of rain, I have almost 3,000 litres of chlorine free water to keep my fruit trees and vegetable gardens watered for two to three weeks depending on the temperature.
    Sure helps cut down on the water bill.

  14. You don’t think the government goons will put a hole in every tank they find, it will be for your health , to stop breading mosquitoes.
    You can live without power but not water, they will be around. You need to have tank repair materials and if possible a hidden tank or well.
    I live off tank (rain) water, have no town water and have no problems, The tanks have mesh screens, I add a litre of peroxide to each 5,000 gallon tank each year. (have 30,000 gallons storage) . I have a pressure pump for all household water so if the power goes off I will be using a bucket. To become self sufficient I need to set up a small tank on a tower that will gravity feed the house, then a solar pump to keep little the tank full.

  15. I’m getting Gretta vibes from this article which is a turn off. Perhaps a better approach would be to review rainwater filtration systems to apply against rain water storage, most of us are already onboard with water storage and don’t need the Greta perspective any more than a nail to the head.

    1. Just because some environmental people are Green New Deal evangelists doesn’t mean we should care about the environment. This simply points out that it does more than benefit our personal water acquisition goals.

  16. I have gutters on one side of my garage going to a couple IBCs, an IBC off a major roof section, and 55-gallon drums off other room sections. I absolutely love it. Have a hose with soaker hose attached to an IBC for one section of my garden, a couple barrels close to the container garden on my deck, and even have a barrel off the roof of my goat house that I use for filling their bucket.

    Last year I was able to water everything until early August just from my rain barrels. We’re in major drought this year so I won’t make it that long, but it beats having to pull from the well.

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