Water Harvesting: Passive Use in the Landscape

Water harvesting is the practice of collecting rain or stormwater for later use.  Water can be collected directly in the landscape or diverted into storage tanks for later use. Water harvesting is a great complement to a water wise landscape.

Why Harvest Water?

  • Reduces waste of a valuable resource
  • Reduces pollutants to area streams and rivers by keeping water on site
  • Collect water for later use on landscape plants (check local and state water ordinances)
  • Stormwater contaminants can be broken down in the soil
Pool of water in a roadside garden bed
Stormwater water is re-routed into this small catchment basin to slowly infiltate back into the soil. Photo credit: Steev Hise Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Tips for Harvesting Rainwater In the Landscape

Using the landscape to collect water is fairly straightforward and easy to do.  In areas high in rainfall or in areas with lots of impervious paving materials water can be directed into catch basins planted with appropriate plants.

Go outside when it rains and watch where the water flows across the landscape. Pay particular attention to paved areas.

  • Create a simple flow map with arrows showing direction of flow
  • avoid sending water down the storm sewer by diverting downspouts to other landscape areas or basins to collect and slowly infiltrate the water
  • Know how much water flows off of the roof through the downspouts
  • Use flexible attachments to extend the downspout and direct water to where it is needed
  • Creating depressions or swales instead of mounds will allow water to penetrate the soil more slowly
  • Create a raingarden or bioswale
  • If needed, install drain pipes or replace or amend poorly drained soil

Additional Resources:

Water Harvesting: Active Collection for Later Use


Washington – Street Edge Alternatives


Minnesota- How Can I Create a Rain Garden?
Missouri – How to Manage and Control Storm Water Runoff
Nebraska – Lawn & Landscapes


Florida – Rain Gardens


Arizona – Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond
Texas – Rainwater Harvesting