Why Water Harvesting is so Important

The act of water harvesting is not a way of gardening, it is a way of life. The importance of water harvesting is simple…to create a sustainable way to use rain water. If created correctly, your water harvesting area could be used not only to house a beautiful garden, but for your showers, and even drinking water. The benefits are enormous from creating a water harvesting system. By simply setting up tanks in strategic places, you can have yourself a wonderful and quite useful water harvesting system…in your own backyard! First, allow me to compare the benefits of creating a system just out of earthworks, or the benefits of adding cisterns to collect water.

Comparing Earthworks and Tanks:

  1. Water uses:

Earth works: Provide large quantities of high-quality rainwater to garden and landscape

Cisterns: Provide water for drinking, washing, fire control, and supplemental irrigation. Click here for more details on supplemental irrigation:

2. Water collection areas:

Earth works: Can collect water from roof, streets, vegetation, bare dirt, greywater drains, air conditioner condensate, etc. Click here for the definition of greywater:

Cisterns: Need relatively clean collection surface (typically metal, tiled or slate roof) located above the cistern.

3. Water storage capacity:

Earthworks: Very large potential to store water in soil

Cisterns: Limited to size of tank

4. Cost:

Earthworks: Inexpensive to construct and maintain. Can build with hand tools

Cisterns: Cost varies with size, construction material, above or below ground placement, self built, etc.

5. Location:

Earthworks: Do not locate 10 feet away from a wall or building fountain. May be very difficult if garden is in very small yard, with adjacent nearby roofs.

Cisterns: No limit to where you can place the cisterns. Can be used in very small yards with adjacent nearby roofs.

6. Time period water is available:

Earthworks: Water available for limited periods after rainfall depending on soil type, multch, climate and plant uptake. Click here for more information on multch and its uses:

Cisterns: Water available for extended periods of time after rainfall

7. Maintenance:

Earthworks: Work passively, require some maintenance after heavy rainfalls

Cisterns: Maintenance required, must turn valve to access water and may need pump to deliver water

8. Erosion Control:

Earthworks: Very effective

Cisterns: Can assist with erosion control

9. Grey Water Collection:

Earthworks: Very effective at harvesting grey water from household drains

Cisterns: Not appropriate to harvest grey water in tanks due to water quality issues.

10. Water quality impacts to environment:

Earthworks: Pollutants in grey water and street runoff intercepted in the soil stay out of regional waterways

Cisterns: Less impact than Earthworks to the broad environment

11. Impacts on urban infrastructure and flooding:

Earthworks: Can capture large volumes of water, reducing need for municipal water (click here for municipal water definition: ), storm-water drains, storm-water treatment and decreasing of flooding.

Cisterns: Can capture low to moderate volumes of water, reducing demand for municipal water, storm-water drains, storm-water treatment and decreasing of flooding.

12. Groundwater recharge:

Earthworks: Sometimes can recharge very shallow groundwater tables

Cisterns: Not an efficient use of tank water


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