Rainwater Harvesting: 8 Methods

Rainwater Harvesting

“In many cases, it’s not a water shortage problem, it’s a water allocation problem”

Stephen Carr

This quote really resonates with rainwater harvesting, water recycling, and Permaculture practices. 

There is not a shortage of this natural resource in most areas, more of a shortage of collection, gathering and using the natural resource to the most of our advantage.

I want to share eight methods of rainwater harvesting and water conservation practices that I have learned and practiced throughout my farming and permaculture background.

Rainwater Harvesting is the collection of rainwater runoff from a structure or other impervious surface in order to store it for later use.

This checklist is a brief description of each method.

I do want to express a few disclaimers:

  • Please be sure to check with your local laws and regulations regarding rainwater collection specific to your area;
  • Before drinking or consuming any collected water, be sure to test the water and put a purifying process in place.

Rainwater Harvesting & Permaculture

  • Water surrounds the world!
  • 71% of the world’s surface is covered in water.
  • The oceans around the globe are over 96% of the world’s water.
  • Freshwater is also available in our rivers, water vapor, lakes, ice caps, glaciers, and aquifers.
  • Water is always in continuous movement changing forms between solid, liquid, and vapor.
  • Earth’s water is always moving within the hydrologic cycle.

Hydrologic Cycle

With that being said it’s important to understand where the water flows through your land and how to design your land with permaculture to avoid soil degradation, drought, erosion, and flooding.

One way to control the flow of the water is to use Swales.

1. Swales

A Swale is a trench used in permaculture to irrigate farmland, mitigating stormwater runoff, reduce erosion, and improve soil quality.

Swales changes the pattern of the water from overland flow to an underground flow.

Changing the flow, reducing and redirecting the water to where you need the rainwater.

2. Rain Barrel System

Rain Barrel System comes in two forms complex and simple.

The simple rainwater barrel system using gravity by collecting rainwater from your roof into barrels.

This would be your first step to making your home, your garden, your farm more sustainable if you haven’t done so yet.

3. Keyline Design

A landscape technique used in Permaculture to maximize the natural resource of rainwater on your land is Keyline Design.

Which designates a topographic feature related to the natural flow pattern of water that flows through your land.

Key Line Design uses the form and shape of the land to determine the layout and position of farm dams, irrigation areas, roads, fences, farm buildings and tree lines.

While using the natural pattern and ecology this method will restore and increase the quality and fertility of the soil.

4. Vallerani System

“Vallerani System” (VS) is a new approach to technical and socio-economic integrated management of human and natural resources.

It consists of a method of working arid and semi-arid land to bring life back and restore the degraded soil.

5. Imprinting: A Rainwater Harvesting Technology

Dr. Robert Dixon has been experimenting and having great success with a simple way to fast-track the revegetation of barren lands since 1976 — with a technique called ‘Imprinting’.

This method uses the “Edge Effect” by “Imprinting” patterns to the soil.

In the tube video below, Dr. Robert Dixon shares the Imprinting Technology with Bill Mollison, the cofounder of Permaculture.

This method is the answer to the Permaculture Nay-Sayers that rebuttal with how long permaculture takes to see results.

6. Trincheras & Gabions

Trincheras are gathered rock check dams to restore drylands and rainwater harvesting.

Gabion method is a larger scale of Trinchera.

Gabions are rock-filled baskets formed by a mesh of galvanized wire dam structures. 

These dam structures are innovative concepts of dryland restoration and rainwater harvesting.

8. Water Retention Landscapes

A design system that uses man-made lakes, swales, and terraces to fight against erosion, desertification, and climate change stricken areas.

A really good friend of mine John D. Liu filmed a legendary documentary on water retention landscapes.


Scroll below for links…

Related and recommended posts

Giuseppe Tallarico

Giuseppe is a versatile and results-oriented Agronomist specializing in Permaculture, Food Security, and Environmental Management Systems dedicated to consulting large-scale farms through the transition to sustainable and regenerative agriculture to achieve maximum profitability naturally while creating a greener abundant earth for generations to come. Giuseppe is an Accredited Instructor by the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia and a permaculture consultant for the government of Jordan. Giuseppe serves the world permaculture community as the founder and General Manager of the World Permaculture Association, the head of the Urban Permaculture Laboratory Educational Center, and manager of Rigenera, a Permaculture consulting company. https://www.giuseppetallarico.com

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments

I want to say thank you for this comprehensive oversight of collecting and storing water in the countryside. I watched each episode and learned a lot


Very good article about rainwater harvesting and it methods. I have a blog talks about rainwater harvesting in India. Its benefits and advantages. https://semajit.com/rainwater-harvesting-in-india/


Why is it that many rainwater harvesting companies and even permaculture articles in uk, say that rainwater harvesting off roofs can save you up to 50% of your mains water bill. When in reality surely it can give you 100% of your water needs, if you make tanks big enough and a filters etc?
Seems to be very strange when on as wet an island as UK they should be pushing for full water independence.

Max Jones

Thanks for the info about rainwater. My brother is looking for a new way to get water for his home. I’ll tell him about rainwater harvesting.


Leave a Reply: