Capturing rainwater is a dead simple process. A bucket, barrel, or small retention pond serve the purpose well. But it’s also prohibited in many states. The thinking is that water should flow it’s natural course and only those with water rights have the right to disturb its course.
But there are states, like Wyoming where the flagship Edible Learning Lab and Modern Steader HQ are located, that allow for rain harvesting. The end goal is to bring water and soil together in the most efficient manner.
Sometimes that means rainwater is harvested during the wet months so that it can be used in the dry months. But there are other ways to capture rainwater to be used immediately. For example, removing impermeable soil – think concrete and paved surfaces – so that rainwater can naturally flow or be efficiently diverted where it can be used to the highest benefit.
Use Gutters and Downspouts
Another simple way to harvest and channel rainwater where you want it is with the use of gutters and downspouts. This system is best installed by a pro and can be integrated well with permanent growing beds or tree wells. Just run the spouts to point where you need them and use the slope of your property to your advantage. Water from these downspouts can also be directed to French Drains or subterranean vaults where it can deep water trees.
Build Swales on Contour
Swales are depressions that are typically built by digging small trenches and pulling the soil to one side creating a small mound to contain and control running water. Swales can be used to direct runoff water – even from downspouts – to the areas that you want using gravity and the natural contour of the land. Swales are typically built on contour, meaning that they are roughly level, catching rain off the slope to allow it to sink in gradually rather than running off quickly and taking nutrients and topsoil with it.
Build a Retention Pond
Not everyone has the liberty of building a small retention pond but for those that own enough land to do so, retention ponds provide a very attractive option. Ponds can support plant life and fish as well as other aquatic organisms. Water can be pumped to other areas of the property as needed. Ponds can be integrated with gutters, piping, or swales to move rainwater from the roof or other areas of the property to the pond.
Buckets and Barrels
Perhaps the simplest and easiest to deploy, buckets and barrels offer modern steaders the opportunity to collect rainwater for later use. Any container can be used to collect water from a downspout and then used to drench raised planters or house plants. Barrels can be built following DIY plans or purchased from a number of vendors that allow for seamless integration with downspouts and even include brass hose bibs that allow you to connect a hose and water plants when needed. It’s a versatile system that anyone can employ.