Types of Rainwater Harvesting Systems

There are many possible configurations and degrees of complexity to a rainwater catchment system. Costs vary considerably as well. You can spend anywhere from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Your best bet is to review the options available on the market to find out what’s in your price range and what’s a realistic set-up for your home. You can once again refer to our page on buying buying rain barrels to help you make a decision.

Perhaps the simplest use of rainwater if you are on a budget or have space restrictions is to put a rain barrel under one of the gutter downspouts and use the water on sensitive indoor plants. The plants will appreciate the soft water. The barrel should always be covered between uses.

A slightly more sophisticated system might be to use several barrels connected together near the bottom with pvc pipes or hose. A small pump can be used in one of the barrels to pump the water to your garden. In this case, all the barrels will drain simultaneously.

Bigger and more complex systems may use gravity to feed water from gutters to a larger cistern, which pumps water to the landscape. Some online gardening sites sell cisterns and other more complex rainwater harvesting equipment.

Whatever you decide, all systems should use covered barrels or cisterns that keep the water from accumulating leaves and other contaminants. They should also have some kind of filter to keep out silt and leaves. Filters can range from a funnel with mesh at the bottom that is covered by gravel, to a rainwater washing apparatus.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

gene clark October 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm

i have a system like you described in slightly more sophistocated systems i have to push water through a hose 200′ to my garden.i need a ondemand pump that i can plumb in the system do you have any ideas on what pump i need and how much pressure it would have to have?


steve October 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm

@gene clark, For pumping water from your rain barrel at 200 feet a pump that is able to push approx 40 PSI with an automatic pressure switch, a ¾ discharge port and one that is self-priming should do fine.


Jenia May 12, 2012 at 10:54 am

gene clark: For a slightly “less sophisticated” / off grid solution – add head (static pressure) to your system by raising the barrel. the pressure @ the bottom of your system would be a function of height, and length of your hose. among the things to consider:

-calculations on the required head (it could be that you don’t have enough – so this solution is out of the window)
-support system
-access for cleaning

good luck!


churik October 6, 2012 at 3:24 pm

really helped me with my maths assignment……..


Janet November 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I have lived through drought in my county and lost most of my garden. I began with simple barrels and inexpensive sump pump. I wanted a larger system since we usually get a lot of rain but the houses are very close together so there just wasn’t the space for the farm type round barrels. I saved for and finally was able to purchase a few.


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