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5 Tips To Turn Your Home's Backyard Into a Rainwater Harvesting System

When it comes to water conservation and usage, a lot of attention has been paid to indoor water use. But what about your home’s outdoor spaces? After all, these areas are often even larger than the indoor spaces in most homes, which is why it’s so important that they be able to help you reduce your home’s total water usage. Whether you live in an apartment with a tiny balcony or a sprawling estate with expansive grounds, there are plenty of ways that your yard can become an effective water harvesting and usage system. Even if you have little space available for additional features, almost any yard can benefit from rainwater harvesting as well as a few small modifications that will make its natural resources work harder.

What is a Rainwater Harvesting System?

A rainwater harvesting system is any device or system that allows you to use rainwater to irrigate your yard. While many people think of harvesting systems as a way to collect and store rainwater, they can also be used to divert and control water flow. You can use a harvesting system to direct water to a specific area or divert water to avoid harming plants that you want to keep dry. Rainwater harvesting systems can be created on the ground or on your roof. If you live in a place where it rains often, a harvesting system can be very helpful for watering your plants saving you money and water.

Install A Rain Catchment Area

The first step to creating a successful rainwater harvesting system is to make sure that the water can reach your desired areas. This can be done with a catchment system, which uses the ground as a catchment area and directs the water to where you want it to go. One of the simplest ways to do this is to create a small depression in your yard, then line it with a permeable material such as gravel, sand, or rock. The depression should be located in a place where water naturally flows, such as along the edges of a sidewalk or walkway. You can also build a larger system that uses the ground as a storage unit for water, whether you want to collect water for later use or divert it from an existing drainage system. One easy way to do this is to create a series of swales, or wide, shallow trenches, around the edges of your yard. The water will naturally collect in the swales, and you can direct it wherever you want to use it, such as for watering plants and trees.

Create a Natural Drainage System

When you’re designing your rain harvesting system, it can be helpful to think of water as a resource that needs to be diverted and controlled, rather than as a free-flowing resource that you want to catch as much of as possible. Instead of directing water towards a specific area, you can divert it away from others. One of the easiest ways to do this is to plant certain types of shrubs and trees near the areas of your yard that you want to protect from too much water. A few strategically placed plants can divert water away from sensitive areas and towards plants that thrive in wet soil. If you have a lot of water in your yard, you can also consider installing a swale to divert water away from your house. A swale is a type of landscaping feature that uses shallow trenches to collect water. A swale can be fairly small (about 1 foot deep) or very large (up to several feet deep).

Use Shrubs And Trees To Create A Natural Filter

If you live in an area with lots of humidity or that is prone to heavy rainstorms such as Arizona's monsoon rains, you may want to consider planting a few shrubs in your rainwater harvesting system. Some desert species of cacti and grasses are known for their ability to filter excess salts and minerals from water, which can be helpful if your harvested water is too “dirty” to be used directly on plants. Some types of trees can help filter water too. If you have an existing tree on your property, you can also use a special device called a tree well to catch and filter excess water. A tree well looks a lot like a birdbath, except it’s placed under a tree rather than above it.


In this article, we explored what a rainwater harvesting system is and how you can use it to reduce your home’s water usage. We also saw five ways you can turn your home’s backyard into a rainwater harvesting system, including installing a rain catchment area, creating a natural drainage system, and using shrubs and trees to create a natural filter.

Deborah Munoz-Chacon, Certified Arborist

Sonoran Oasis Landscaping

(520) 370-5697


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