Rain Barrel Harvesting (Photo by Sunset Magazine)

Rain Barrel Harvesting (Photo by Sunset Magazine)

I’ve been researching some ways to “green” up an existing home, in case we end up purchasing a “fixer-upper”. Some of these ideas are less inexpensive, like losing the lawn and planting drought-tolerant plants in a semi-arid region, others are more expensive like installing solar panels and running a portion of your household energy off of it, then reselling the excess to your utility company (a sweet deal!). But an idea I researched a while back, and the recent rain storm made me recall this idea, is rain collection in arid and semi-arid areas. Indulging my continued curiosity, I further investigated this idea through Sunset Magazine, I love the photos in this mag. They had some inspiring, and unusual, ideas for collecting rain. However, before I begin describing some methods, let me explain a few laws about rain water collection that I didn’t know existed:

  • Colorado: If you live in Colorado, the rain that falls from the sky is not yours to keep! Did you know that? Because many of their streams feed into rivers that deliver water to other states, all rain water is supposed to end up in the streams. So rain water harvesting (I like this word) in this state is out for now. (source: Wikipedia)
  • Utah and Washington: You may harvest rain water only if you own the rights to your ground water. So if you are using well water, you may then collect your rain water. I’ve read on other sites that this law is not enforced, so you could probably get away with collecting it on the down low. (source: Wikipedia)
  • New Mexico: In contrast to neighboring Colorado, some areas require rain water collection on new dwellings. What a terrific idea! Most likely, this is due to their desert-like region. (source: Wikipedia)
  • Arizona: Due to their desert topography, homeowners can receive a tax credit for capturing and recycling rainwater. (source: Sunset Magazine)

Other states and regions may have laws regulating stagnant water and collection techniques, so if you’re unsure, you may want to check with your city.

Now on to some rain water collection methods (all require containment or lids to avoid open, stagnant water):

  • Rain (whiskey) barrel collection: With a little work, and a gutter system, you position your rain or whiskey barrel at a point where your gutters drain, usually at a corner of your house or structure. Affixing a hose or pipe from your gutter to the rain barrel, the rain collects into the barrel. They can hold about 50-60 gallons. A spiget towards the bottom of the barrel makes it easy to use the rain water.
  • Rain Chain: This is a beautiful way to collect rain. The rain drips down from small bowl to small bowl, then eventually ends up in a catchment of some kind. It can fall into a creek or rock covered area of your lawn. Beneath the rock area would be a tank that holds the water until you need to use it.
  • Cistern: Using a gutter system, cisterns can hold hundreds to thousands of gallons of rain water. It’s a more complex system, but if you have a huge yard or garden, this might be a feasible option.

Here are a few links I came across that describe in detail how to build a rain water harvesting system (and sell the supplies you would need to start this process!):

How many of you reuse your rain water? How do you collect it? Have you thought about installing a system recently? What if you live in an apartment, can you find a way to use rain water to water your house plants?