How to Harvest Rainwater From Your Gutters

Written by Shawn Drew
Updated February 4, 2013
Rainwater barrels
Rainwater collection barrels take a variety of shapes. (Photo by Doug McSchooler)

Rainwater can be harvested, collected and stored for landscaping, irrigation and cleaning.

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Rainwater barrel
Many rain harvesting systems can attach directly to a downspout. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sarah F. of Havertown, Pennsylvania)

Rainwater harvesting refers to the collection and storage of water for landscaping, irrigation, cleaning and fire prevention. In most cases, a rain barrel or cistern is attached directly to the gutter system to collect rain as it flows off the roof.

Some people rely on harvested rainwater as a low-cost, alternative source of fresh water, while others collect and save it to help get through droughts or dry months, especially in areas that impose watering bans.  Each is one of the most cost-effective rainwater harvesting methods.

Water storage options

Tanks and cisterns are the most popular storage options for harvesting rainwater since their position above ground makes it possible to use the collected water without a pump. There are also underground options for homeowners who prefer to keep their rain collection out of sight, or live in areas prone to freezing weather.

Some homeowners choose to forego the tank and simply divert their gutters to a water feature on their property. This makes it difficult to use the collected water for cleaning or irrigation, but helps keeps ponds or small canals stocked with water.

Changes to your gutters

In most situations, you'll need to attach the rain harvesting system to one of your downspouts. You might need to cut away a section of the downspout, remove a section altogether or install a flexible downspout connector to ensure no water is lost as it moves to the storage container

Altering your gutters has the potential to cause problems, so consider hiring a handyman or gutter professional to install your rainwater harvesting system.

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