Water Wednesday Recap: Rainwater Harvesting

Although rainwater harvesting has been practiced for thousands of years, recent concerns over water supplies and the environment have prompted a renewed interest in this method of water sourcing. A rainwater harvesting system is the collection and storage of rainwater. There are many ways you can collect rainwater.

What is Rainwater Harvesting?

The most common way to harvest rainwater residentially is by using a rain barrel. Being able to use gravity as a mechanism to collect water makes this a very inexpensive process. On a larger scale you can harvest rainwater into irrigation pipes; agriculture is the most common use of rainwater harvesting. Stored rainwater has many uses for everyday residential needs. You can use it for washing vehicles, filling ponds, filling fountains, and swimming pools. It is recommended by Don Rainey, UF/IFAS Water Resources Regional Specialized Agent, to utilize filters on the water before you put the water to more serious use. Click here to watch Water Wednesday Ask Extension about Rainwater Harvesting.

Reclaimed water is very popularly used to irrigate residential lawns. However, lots of reclaimed water is used in wasteful ways. Being that lots of rainfall happens within Florida lawns are naturally heavily saturated with water. So, when you accompany dousing residential lawns with reclaimed water the lawn becomes overly watered and leads to runoff and often takes the chemicals put on the lawn with it. If you were able to residentially utilize all the water that falls on your roof to irrigate your lawn you could save money on water during those wet seasons here in Florida. There is no need to treat water for non-drinking uses, this can help expand what you can use your collected water for.

Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting Systems

There are a lot of personal benefits to being able to utilize rainwater. Let’s talk about why rainwater harvesting has such a huge beneficial effect on Florida’s environment. On a larger scale rainwater harvesting reduces soil erosion and the pollution of surface water. Tina Mcintyre, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent in UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County, thinks that avoiding surface water pollution is extremely important. Evidence shows that we overuse the groundwater supply that we have. The demand needed outweighs what we have so for that reason in the coming years especially in Florida there is going to have to be a transition. The kind of transition where there is now a need to develop alternative water supplies and implement water conservation rather than solely replying on groundwater as the water supply. Therefore, rainwater harvesting is highly encouraged It not only reduces the demand on the existing water supply, but also reduces potential contamination that is carried in stormwater runoff.

How to Build Your Own Rain Barrel

While advanced systems are commercially available, a homeowner can construct a simple rainwater harvesting system, such as a rain barrel, for home use with a basic understanding of its components and function. Rain barrels are easy to pick up at your local home improvement stores. You can also order them online. Keep in mind that you only want to use food-grade barrels. Once obtaining the barrel, you need to clean it out, Tina recommends even using something as common as dish soap. Once clean, identify a spot where it can be placed. Make sure the surface you put the barrel in a location where the base can rest sturdily. Raking out leaves or even making a platform from wood or bricks can help stabilize the balance of the barrel. Then you need to saw out the lid of the barrels and make sure the top is completely open, this is how the rainwater will be able to collect. After that, make sure you drill a hole on the side of the barrel about 6” above the base and screw in your preferred apparatus to dispense the water. Lastly install an overflow outlet cover with mesh and you can secure it using a bungee. Please watch this step-by-step guide on how to make a rain barrel and properly utilize the rainwater.

Additional Resources

If you are looking for more information and professional advice, check out the link below to see how you could incorporate rainwater harvesting into your daily life and learn why it makes a difference.


This blog was written by Holly Stralka and edited by Yilin Zhuang. Holly is a Senior Student in UF/IFAS Soil and Water Science Department. Yilin is the Water Resources Regional Specialized Agent in UF/IFAS Extension Central District. 

Special thanks to Don Rainey, the Water Resources Regional Specialized Agent in the UF/IFAS Extension Southwest District and Tina McIntyre, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent in the UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County for presenting at Water Wednesday in September.

Posted: September 23, 2021

Category: Conservation, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, HOME LANDSCAPES, Lawn, Natural Resources, Water, Wildlife
Tags: #WaterWednesday, Alternative Water Supply, DIY, Don Rainey, Rain Barrel, Rainwater, Rainwater Harvesting, Runoff, Tina McIntyre, Water, Water Conservation, Water RSA, Water Wednesday, Yilin Zhuang

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