12 Reasons You Should Be Recycling Rainwater in Your Yard

Purple Kencana or Ruellia brittoniana or Ruellia tuberosa Flowers blooming on a background of green leaves. Blue flowers that bloom and beautifully thrive. Wet by rainwater. Bokeh.
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Written by Nikita Ross

Updated: November 16, 2023

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While you may not be inclined to spend time working in your garden on rainy days, you can still make the most of this gloomy weather by recycling rainwater.

Rainwater recycling, also called “rainwater harvesting,” is the collection of rainwater to save and use in your garden as an alternative to running a hose or sprinkler system.

In this article, we’ll dive into the benefits of rainwater recycling and helpful tips for getting started.

Let’s dig in!

1. Conserve Freshwater Resources

evening sun on the Cowpasture River, Virginia

Protect freshwater resources in your area.

©thombo2, CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

There’s a common misconception that gardening is inherently eco-friendly; this isn’t the case. 

Your methods impact the environment, either positively or negatively. Taking intentional steps to be an eco-conscious gardener is essential for sustainable gardening.

The first priority is conserving freshwater resources when caring for your garden. According to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the average garden requires one inch of water per week to thrive, or 0.623 gallons per square foot. 

If you have a 12×12 (24 square foot) garden plot, you’d need to apply approximately 15 gallons of water weekly, or 180 gallons — enough to fill a four-person hot tub or nearly five full bathtubs

By harvesting and using rainwater, you can conserve freshwater resources. It’s as simple as saving your rain for a sunny day

2. Save Money

man with water hose watering the grass

Rainwater helps save on utility bills.

©iStock.com/vovashevchuk

Inflation is having a significant impact on the cost of living. Water bills, in particular, are up 51% from 2012 to 2022 — double the inflation rate. 

Installing a complete household rainwater recycling system requires a significant upfront investment. However, a simple garden-friendly rainwater harvesting system is affordable and pays for itself during the growing season.

Depending on your area, introducing sustainable steps to reduce your consumption could also make you eligible for rebates and grants.

3. Protect Native Flora and Fauna

White-tailed deer fawn walking in the dark forest in Canada

Harvesting rainwater helps reduce contamination that could impact local wildlife.

©Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

One of the downsides of using tap water for gardening is the potential for contamination. The additives, such as chlorine and fluoride, can hurt native plants and animals. 

Using treated water outside could lead to runoff that impacts local freshwater sources, such as lakes, rivers, and streams. Rainwater recycling reduces this potential for contamination.

Rainwater is natural and additive-free. While it’s unsuitable for human consumption, the local plants and animals will love it!

4. Protect Your Plants

Hoary vervain growing in the Native Plant Garden

Rainwater is an ambient temperature and won’t shock your plants.

©Barbara Smits/Shutterstock.com

Treated water can also negatively impact the plants in your garden, throwing off pH levels and inhibiting their growth. This issue is why indoor plant experts recommend leaving tap water overnight before watering your plants — it allows the additives to evaporate.

Recycling your rainwater for watering will provide your plants with the best possible and consistent care. The ambient temperature will also reduce potential shock from introducing water that’s too cold or hot for your plants. Consider using it for your indoor plants, too!

5. Reduce Stormwater Runoff

Wild moving flooded waters at Disney, Oklahoma shows the power and strength of the forces of water after heavy rains.

Runoff water contaminates natural water sources.

©Diane079F/Shutterstock.com

Stormwater runoff is one of the fastest-growing sources of pollution. This term refers to rainwater that can’t be absorbed into the ground due to the introduction of impervious surfaces like concrete and pavement. This issue is primarily in urban areas

Harvesting rainwater helps offset stormwater runoff, amplifying the positive environmental effects listed above. Collecting rainwater can also be helpful if your basement is prone to flooding.

6. Become Independent and Self-Sustaining

Preparing garden bed for planting

Collecting rainwater improves independence and self-sufficiency.

©iStock.com/Михаил Руденко

Rainwater harvesting provides an opportunity to become independent and self-sufficient. A fully functional household rainwater recycling system will make you less vulnerable to water supply disruptions.

While a gardening-centric rainwater harvesting system won’t power your house, it’s still a valuable asset. If an emergency arises, like a storm interrupting power, you’ll have an emergency water supply for flushing toilets and staying clean.

7. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Panoramic view of wind farm or wind park, with high wind turbines for generation electricity with copy space. Green energy concept.

Rainwater harvesting helps reduce your carbon footprint and contributes to less electricity use.

©Vladimka production/Shutterstock.com

Rainwater recycling not only reduces your water consumption but your electricity consumption as well. Pumping and treating water requires electricity. Using less water means using less electricity for these purposes. 

8. Comply With Drought Bans

Corn plants wilting and dead in cornfield. Herbicide damage, drought and hot weather concept

Keep your plants alive during droughts with rainwater harvesting.

©iStock.com/JJ Gouin

Water bans during drought periods can be devastating to your yard and garden. Yet, they’re necessary for protecting the local environment and resources.

Rainwater recycling allows you to comply with drought bans and regulatory measures without compromising your landscape or legal standing. Avoiding hefty fines while boasting the greenest yard in the neighborhood? That’s a win!

9. Reduce Erosion

Andalusia, Granada - Spain, Spain, Landslide, Dirt

Reducing runoff can help offset erosion.

©iStock.com/Paul Owens

Water is a powerful force that has the power to wash away dirt and wear through rock. Reducing the amount of water runoff on your property can help mitigate erosion. Placing harvesting containers under your gutter spouts can help protect your property.

10. Protect Community Resources

Storm drain collecting water

Minimizing stormwater runoff protects community infrastructure.

©Robert Lawton, CC BY-SA 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

Reducing stormwater runoff and reducing wastewater can help protect your community resources. As systems get overrun during intense rains, it can lead to infrastructure damage. Backed-up drainage systems lead to wash-outs, costing the taxpayers time and money. 

There’s always the argument that one person or household won’t make a difference. However, leading by example and highlighting the benefits of rainwater recycling in your community could have a lasting impact.

11. Extend Your Garden’s Lifespan

vegetable garden

Keep your garden alive for longer.

©donlucius/iStock via Getty Images

Keeping a garden alive during dry spells and amidst drought bans is difficult. Unfavorable weather leads to limited lifespans and poor harvests for gardeners and farmers.

Recycling water can help you extend your garden’s lifespan and get the best possible yield from fruit and vegetable crops. If you prefer ornamental plants, having water on hand during dry periods will also prolong your blooming season.

12. Provide an Educational Opportunity

Kids picking strawberry on fruit farm field on sunny summer day. Children pick fresh ripe organic strawberry in white basket on pick your own berry plantation. Boy and girl eating strawberries.

Get your kids involved in sustainable gardening.

©FamVeld/Shutterstock.com

Starting a rainwater recycling routine provides an excellent opportunity to educate your family and get engaged in environmental conservation. This is a great way to teach kids about the importance of conservation and spark an interest in gardening. They’ll enjoy tracking how much rainwater you’re collecting and explore how you can use it.

This process is also great for educating your community and starting local conservation initiatives. Showing your neighbors your utility cost savings, thriving yard, and lasting benefits for the community is a small way to make a big difference.

How to Start Recycling Rainwater

Rainwater recycling is scaleable; you can start small and grow over time. Contact an expert to implement a household rainwater recycling system, as this is a significant endeavor. 

If you’re trying to implement a small rainwater harvesting system for your garden and emergency use, follow these essential tips.

Cleaning gutters

Clean your roof and gutters to prepare your rainwater recycling routine.

©iStock.com/IndyEdge

1. Check Local Regulations

first, ensure that your goals comply with local regulations. This is essential if you plan on redirecting the flow of water, though typically, it isn’t an issue for a simple rain barrel setup.

2. Check Your Roof

Some roofing materials, such as copper, galvanized metal, or treated wood, may contaminate your water, making it inappropriate for food gardens. Do your research!

3. Check Your Gutters

Clear the debris from your gutters and ensure they’re free of potential contaminants, such as bird droppings or decomposing leaves.

4. Invest in the Right Container

Purchase a rain barrel that can hold enough water to get you through the season. Choose something with a durable, food-safe material. Ideally, it will have a low-lying tap to simplify use and drainage. 

5. Use a Cover

Keep your rain barrel covered to prevent pests from contaminating the standing water. A mesh cover will help keep out debris from your spout, and a hardcover will help keep the water clean.

Having a lockable cover is recommended if you have small children.

6. Use a Stable Surface

Place your rainwater storage on a stable surface, creating a structure if needed. This feature will prevent unfortunate or potentially dangerous spills.

7. Create a Maintenance Schedule

Create a maintenance schedule to ensure your roof, gutters, screen, and barrel are free of debris and potential contaminants. Consider testing the water regularly.

8. Use the Water Appropriately

Don’t drink the water, cook with the water, or use the water for bathing without appropriate testing and treatment. Boiling only kills organic contaminants, like bacteria and parasites. It will not clear the water of chemical contaminants. Err on the side of caution.

Summary of 12 Reasons You Should Be Recycling Rainwater in Your Yard

Reason #Benefits of Recycling Rainwater
#1Conserve Freshwater Resources
#2Save Money
#3Protect Native Flora and Fauna
#4Protect Your Plants
#5Reduce Stormwater Runoff
#6Become Independent and Self-Sufficient
#7Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
#8Comply with Drought Bans
#9Reduce Erosion
#10Protect Community Resources
#11Extend Your Garden’s Lifespan
#12Provide an Educational Opportunity
A summary of the top reasons why you should recycle rainwater in your yard.


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About the Author

Nikita Ross is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering plants, gardening, and yard care. Nikita has been writing for over seven years and holds a Marketing diploma from NSCC, which she earned in 2010. A resident of Canada, Nikita enjoys reading in her library, epic beach naps, and waiting for her Coffea arabica plant to produce coffee beans (no luck yet).

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