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…

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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 10 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

    Giuseppe Tallarico

    My name is Giuseppe Tallarico, I’m glad to hear that the information provided in the article on rainwater harvesting was helpful for you. The different methods outlined in the article provide a range of options for individuals to choose from, depending on their specific needs and resources. It is great that you have taken the time to watch each episode and learn more about this important topic. Water conservation and harvesting is a crucial aspect of sustainable living, and I hope that the information provided has helped you to implement rainwater harvesting methods in your own home or community. Keep on learning and experimenting with different methods to find the one that best suits you.


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/

    Giuseppe Tallarico

    My name is Giuseppe Tallarico and I appreciate the informative article on rainwater harvesting and its various methods provided by the World Permaculture Association. The article gives a comprehensive overview of the different techniques used for collecting and storing rainwater, making it a valuable resource for individuals looking to implement rainwater harvesting systems in their own homes or communities. As a blogger, I highly recommend readers to check out your blog post on rainwater harvesting in India, it provides valuable insights on the benefits and advantages of rainwater harvesting in India. Your blog post is a great complement to the information provided in this article and offers a specific perspective on the topic. Keep up the good work, rainwater harvesting is an essential aspect of sustainable living, and it’s good to see more bloggers covering this topic.


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.

    Giuseppe Tallarico

    It is true that rainwater harvesting off roofs can potentially provide 100% of a household’s water needs, depending on factors such as the size of the rainwater storage tanks, the efficiency of the filtration system, and the amount of rainfall in a specific area. However, there are several reasons why rainwater harvesting companies and permaculture articles in the UK may only estimate savings of up to 50% on a household’s mains water bill:

    Climate: The UK does experience significant rainfall, but it is not consistent throughout the year. During dry spells or droughts, rainwater harvesting systems may not be able to provide enough water to meet all of a household’s needs, and a supplement from the mains water supply may be necessary.

    Storage limitations: The size of the rainwater storage tanks and cisterns can be a limiting factor in how much water can be harvested and stored. To achieve 100% water independence, a very large storage capacity would be needed, which may not be practical or affordable for many households.

    Quality of water: Even though the rainwater is filtered, it may not be safe for drinking or for certain uses such as bathing. A household may still need to rely on mains water for certain applications.

    Cost: Building and maintaining a rainwater harvesting system that is capable of providing 100% of a household’s water needs can be expensive. It may not be cost-effective for many households to invest in such a system.

    It’s important to remember that rainwater harvesting is a long-term investment in sustainability, and it can be more effective when seen as a complement to other water conservation and management methods, rather than an exclusive solution. In the UK, many households have access to clean and reliable mains water supply, so the main goal of rainwater harvesting might not necessarily be to achieve 100% water independence, but rather to reduce the use of mains water, minimize water bills, and reduce the strain on the water supply infrastructure during periods of high demand. Additionally, the rainwater harvesting can also have other benefits such as reducing the risk of flooding, recharging groundwater and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides by using collected rainwater to irrigation.

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.

    Giuseppe Tallarico

    You’re welcome. Rainwater harvesting can be a great solution for many households, especially those that are looking for ways to reduce their water bills and their environmental impact. It is important to keep in mind that it may not be the only solution, and that it requires careful planning, design, and maintenance to ensure it is effective. Your brother should consult with experts and do research to find the best option for his specific situation, taking into account factors such as the climate, the size of his property, the intended uses of the harvested water, and the available budget. But overall, rainwater harvesting is a great way to conserve water and promote sustainable living.


I agree with the other commenters that rainwater harvesting is a crucial aspect of permaculture design. I particularly appreciate the mention of the 8 different methods discussed in the article. It’s important to have a variety of techniques at our disposal in order to best suit the needs of the specific site and climate. I also appreciate the emphasis on not just collecting the rainwater, but also properly filtering and storing it for future use. Overall, this post provides valuable information and insights on the importance and various methods of rainwater harvesting in permaculture.

    Giuseppe Tallarico

    As the General Manager of the World Permaculture Association, I would like to thank you, for your insightful comment on the importance of rainwater harvesting in permaculture design.

    We are glad to see that you found the post informative and well-written.

    We agree that it is important to have a variety of techniques at our disposal in order to best suit the needs of the specific site and climate.

    We appreciate your emphasis on not just collecting the rainwater, but also properly filtering and storing it for future use.

    Your comment highlights the importance of community engagement and education in permaculture and agroecological projects.

    It’s clear that these approaches not only benefit the environment, but also empower individuals and communities to take control of their own food systems.

    We hope you continue to engage with the content on our website, and we look forward to your future comments.

    Giuseppe Tallarico


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