Create a Rainwater Harvesting System for Your Yard

Published on August 14th, 2012 | by

Backyard rainwater collection tanks

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average single-family, suburban household uses 260 gallons of water a day, and at least 30% of that water is used for irrigation. At that volume, maintaining a lush, green landscape can be hard on your budget, especially if it hasn’t rained in a while. If you’re concerned about wasting water on the lawn and are interested in a greener solution, you may want to consider rainwater harvesting.

The benefits of rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvesting is good for the environment, the health of your lawn and your utilities budget. Recycling rainwater into your landscape with a rainwater collection system reduces your water bill and total water usage, as well as the energy exerted to treat water and make it potable for drinking and cooking. Plus, rainwater is actually better for your lawn than the treated water you use in your home. It’s rich in nutrients and you don’t have to worry about chemicals like chlorine, making it better for your lawn and even reducing fertilizer use. Rainwater harvesting also prevents damage to your yard from runoff during heavy downpours.

Find the right rainwater collection system

There are many systems designed for rainwater harvesting available. Choosing the right system depends on where you live, how often it rains and how much money you want to spend on the process.

  • Rain barrels connected to the base of your downspout.
    A rain barrel is easy to install and can save you about 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months. You can find rain barrels in various styles and sizes at your local home improvement store, or build one yourself. Make sure the seal around the downspout entry is secure and a filter is included to keep any bugs, animals or large objects from entering the rain barrel. You should also have a spigot attached near the base to hook up your hose or fill buckets and watering cans. Rain barrels range in price from $50 to $200, making them not only easy to install, but also affordable. Avoid clear barrels as they can foster the growth of algae inside the tank.
  • Large above- and below-ground cisterns.
    Depending on rainfall in your area and your uses for the water you collect, you may want a larger rainwater collection system. Above- and below-ground cisterns are available for larger rainwater harvesting efforts, as well as rainwater collection systems that can be hooked up to an automatic sprinkler system. Large systems like this are not only a great way to water your lawn, but they can also serve as a water source for activities around the house like washing the car, doing laundry, or filling a toilet. If filtered with UV light, the rainwater can also be used as an emergency water source for cooking and drinking.

How rainwater harvesting can improve your lawn care

Proper irrigation is crucial to a healthy lawn. You need to be careful not to overwater your lawn, or let it suffer without water for too long. Watering manually in the morning ensures that your lawn gets the attention it needs and reduces waste by around 65%. If you choose an automatic system, consider one with rain and soil sensors to ensure you only water when you really need it. Whichever system you choose should be hooked up to your rainwater collection system to provide the nutrients your lawn needs to thrive.

A healthy lawn also depends upon quality outdoor power equipment. Check your mower, trimmers, blowers and edgers at the start of each season to ensure they are running properly. When you have a rainwater collection system, you’re able to keep your lawn healthy enough to mow regularly even when experiencing a drought. Sharp lawn mower blades cut the grass efficiently, saving you time and helping it grow back at a healthy rate. Remember to keep your cut setting high, at around two to three inches for optimal growth. Mowing regularly at the proper height also helps restrict weed growth which could choke out your grass as it competes for water in the soil.

Backyard rainwater collection tanks photo via Shutterstock


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1 comment

  • Good post about the general benefits of rainwater collection. While rain barrels are a great start for people, a larger system will be a much more efficient and cost-effective system in the long run.

    Rain barrels can collect a lot of rainwater but it is hard to say they will save you about 1,300 gallons in a summer. There are many factors that go into this calculation such as roof area and amount of rainfall. Therefore you could collect a lot more or a lot less.

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