Four Methods for Harvesting Rainwater

By Karen Lloyd
Published: January 20, 2023 | Last updated: January 20, 2023 09:59:46
Key Takeaways

By learning how to more accurately harvest rainwater at the local level, we can take the pressure off supply demand by using ancient water harvesting techniques.

You cannot turn on the news today without hearing story after story of either floods or droughts inflicting untold hardship on millions of the world’s poorest inhabitants. According to the United Nations, more than 25 percent of the global population will not have access to clean water by 2050. Presently, farming accounts for nearly 70 percent of the world’s total freshwater withdrawal and more than 85 percent of its consumption. Without swift and serious action, our depleting reservoirs will put human health and the environment at serious risk, contributing to famine, flood, and myriad other miseries.

Due to population growth, urbanization, and climate change, competition for water resources is expected to increase, with a particular impact on agriculture. The global population is expected to increase to more than 10 billion people by 2050 and, whether urban or rural, this population will need food to meet its basic needs. Simply put, water is a crucial input for agricultural production and plays a vital role in food security.

The good news is it’s not all doom and gloom as innovators in the poorest countries are using centuries old techniques to adapt their crops and conserve water while huge consortiums are using the latest advanced technology to breed drought-resistant crops and perfect water catchment systems. Everyone is contributing to solve a problem that will come to affect us all.

Is harvesting rainwater the solution? There are no simple solutions to the multiple factors contributing to climate change. Many of the factors are beyond the abilities of any one country, let alone an individual farmer’s ability to make significant changes. These complex problems require complex solutions and the collaboration of the many stakeholders who have an interest in seeing the planet thrive for everyone.

There are many things the agricultural community, municipalities, and individuals can do to help with the conservation of our most precious resource. Here are some time-tested ideas when implemented into landscape design and farming practices that can drastically increase our efficient use of water.


Read also:
Water Hazards: The Downside of Over or Under Watering
Water Quality Issues and How to Deal with Them
10 Best Indoor Garden Watering Practices

Keyline Design

tablet showing topographical view of a landscape


This landscape technique is used to maximize rainwater on your land by using the shape of the land. This helps to determine the layout and position of irrigation areas, roads, fences, and buildings. The idea is to “slow, sink, and spread” excess rainwater towards drier parts of the landscape. A keyline can be found on topographical maps where the contour lines begin to get further apart. This represents the highest contour of the land that can efficiently hold water.

Rain Barrel System

rain barrel collecting water from a gutter spout

The rainwater barrel system uses gravity to collect rainwater from your roof into barrels, installed at the bottom of a downspout. It’s the simplest and most common form of rainwater harvesting. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes and colors and can easily be incorporated into your existing garden. According to a Future Market Insights report, the global Rain Barrels Market is expected to witness an exuberance, reaching $3.3 billion by 2030 at a CAGR of 5.7 percent between 2022 and 2030.



Garden containing water trenches

Trenches are innovative dams made from gathered rocks in farmers’ fields. Trenches increase rain harvesting by breaking the natural slope of the ground and therefore reducing the momentum of water runoff. By decreasing runoff, trenches enhance water infiltration and prevent soil erosion. While there are many benefits to building field trenches, especially in larger agricultural operations, they are labor-intensive to maintain and by nature use land that could otherwise grow fruits and vegetables.



landscape featuring swales

Swales are shallow, broad, and vegetated channels designed to store and/or send runoff and remove pollutants. A swale is much like a trench but is used to change the pattern of the rainwater from overland flow to an underground flow, redirecting the water from roads and hard surfaces, for example, to where you need it.

Not everyone reading this article is a farmer or makes the planning decisions for the municipality in which they live, so other than installing a rain barrel near your garden, you might ask “what can I do?” By conserving water, you will normalize the practice for others and take stress off the system and you can lobby your municipality to consider some of these water-saving techniques to be incorporated into your community. At the very least, actually install that rain barrel. Water harvesting is a simple and sustainable way to protect our planet’s natural resources and delicate ecosystems.

When we use harvested rainwater in our gardens, we conserve groundwater, save energy, limit the damaging effects of stormwater runoff, and protect our planet’s natural resources and delicate ecosystems. Your plants will also be happier. Slightly acidic and 100 percent soft, there’s no water plants love more than rainwater. Stored rainwater also contains small amounts of organic material like leaf litter and pollen which are great for your plants.


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Written by Karen Lloyd | Freelance Writer, Digital Marketing Expert

Profile Picture of Karen Lloyd

Karen Lloyd is a freelance writer, digital marketing expert and hippy at heart in the city with a small studio, spacious deck and enormous passion for all things cannabis, urban gardening and food equity in Toronto.

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