Professional Practice

Improving Water Efficiency: Residential Rainwater Harvesting

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Stormwater runoff from the garden and roof is channeled into a cistern where the water is captured and gradually seeps into the water table. ASLA 2015 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Brooklyn Oasis, Brooklyn, New York / Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

Rainwater harvesting is a system that collects, diverts, and stores rain in a catchment tank -- often a barrel or buried cistern. Rainwater can be successfully used for landscape irrigation because rainwater is collected directly from the sky, where it is funneled off roofs. This harvested rainwater can also be used for car washing and toilet flushing. One inch of rainfall can generate 700 gallons of water runoff on a 1,200 square foot roof. A quarter inch of runoff can fill a rain barrel.

Rainwater harvesting is an efficient sustainable water management technique common before public utility departments centralized and then re-distributed water.

Rainwater harvesting benefits include:

  • Reduced consumption of distributed potable water: Homeowners use up to half of a home’s total water consumption for landscape irrigation
  • Reduced water bills and demand on existing water supply.
  • More efficient use of rainwater resources.

Sources: Rainwater Harvesting, Texas A & M University; American RiversEnergy Efficient Homes, University of Florida


American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association

European Rainwater Catchment Systems Association

Harvest H2O

Rainwater Harvesting, Centre for Science and Environment


"Design for Water: Rainwater Harvesting, Stormwater Catchment, and Alternate Water Reuse," Heather Kinkade-Levario, New Society Publishers, 2007

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Vol. 1, Second Edition,” Brad Lancaster, Rainsource Press, 2013

Harvesting Rainwater for Landscape Use,” Patricia H. Waterfall, Extension Agent, University of Arizona

Gardening with Less Water: Low-Tech, Low-Cost Techniques; Use up to 90% Less Water in Your Garden,” David A. Bainbridge, Storey Publishing, 2015

Creating Rain Gardens: Capturing the Rain for Your Own Water-Efficient Garden,” Apryl Uncapher & Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, Timber Press, 2012


Rain Barrels and Cisterns, Urban Design Tools, Low Impact Development

Toronto Homeowner’s Guide to Rainfall, RiverSides

Using Rainwater to Grow Livable Communities, Water Environmental Research Foundation

Using Rainwater in Urban Landscapes: Quick Guide for Maricopa County, University of Arizona

Use of Graywater in Urban Landscapes in California, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

Rainwater Harvesting – Sourcing the Rain, Greywater Action

Government Resources

How to Manage Stormwater – Rain Barrels, Environmental Services, City of Portland

Oregon Smart Guide – Rainwater Harvesting
, Department of Consumer & Building Services, State of Oregon

Rainwater Harvesting, Seattle Public Utilities

Residential Greywater Rebate, City of Tempe, Arizona

Rainwater Catchment Incentive Program, Marina Coast Water District

Graywater Guidelines, Water Conservation Alliance of Southern Arizona

Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting, Texas Water Development Board

Rainwater Collection in Washington State, Department of Ecology, State of Washington

Rain Barrels, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Residential Stormwater Credits, City of Ann Arbor Michigan

Slow it. Spread it. Sink it! A Homeowner’s Guide to Greening Stormwater Runoff, Conservation District of Santa Cruz County

Rainwater Harvesting Pilot Project, City of Albuquerque

Rain Barrel & Cistern Rebate, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California


Water Calculation and Poetic Interpretation, Monterey Cypress, California
Arterra Landscape Architects

Brooklyn Oasis, Brooklyn, New York
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

Quaker Smith Point Residence, Burlington, Vermont
H. Keith Wagner Partnership

Mill Creek Ranch, Vanderpool, Texas
Ten Eyck Landscape Architects Inc.





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