Rain in the desert is scarce and fleeting. But it rains frequently enough that people are able to collect rainwater to water gardens and yards without using precious water from municipal water sources or a well. Rainwater can be used to water the garden, to fill toilet tanks after flushing and for a variety of home uses including cleaning and construction. Using a rain barrel is a great way to conserve municipal or well water.
DIY Rain Barrels
Rain barrels, cisterns, and other collection systems are becoming more common in the Desert Southwest as water concerns increase. Collection kits are available from hardware stores, online shops, and can be an easy DIY project. There are dozens of websites with complete instructions available including instructables.com, which has photos, as well as a list of needed materials and what to do from start to finish to make you own rain barrel.
Rainwater Harvesting Resources
The Maricopa County Extension office offers a booklet about harvesting rainwater, with information about why and how to take advantage of what rain we do get. The booklet is available online here.
According to their guide, rainwater harvesting has a host of benefits beyond reducing demand on local freshwater resources. By collecting rainwater during a storm, there’s less storm water runoff, which can overwhelm local sewage systems and result in local pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, metals, and other sediments making their way to rivers and streams, lakes, and ponds and eventually out into the ocean.
Collecting rainwater can also reduce erosion in especially very dry environments where it is common and reduce flooding in low-lying areas.*
*From “A Beginner’s Guide to Rainwater Harvesting” at www.treehuggers.com.