MetroABQ Blog

High Time for Water Catchment Systems


Designed by the architect/owner (the house was also designed by him), these two large water catchment tanks are suggestive of older farm silos, which fit in this traditional North Valley setting. Notice that the gutter drains into the first tank, and the overflow fills the second tank, recapturing all the rooftop water available.

Rainwater harvesting is the accumulating and storing of rainwater for reuse, before it reaches the aquifer, or in our case, the Rio. It has been used to provide drinking water, water for livestock and irrigation, and water for landscaping urban yards.

Rainwater harvesting systems can be simple to construct from inexpensive local materials. Roof rainwater isn’t of good drinking quality; it isn’t potable because of contaminants in the air such as ash from forest fires, bird feces, tar & gravel,etc.

Although some rooftop materials may produce rainwater that is harmful to human health, it can be useful in flushing toilets, washing clothes, watering the garden and washing cars; these uses alone cut down the amount of water used by a typical home. As the average rainfall in the MetroABQ area is 8″ per year, rainwater harvesting can definitely benefit our parched New Mexico landscapes, especially this year. Said homeowner Rob Thalmann, whose water catchment system is pictured below, “You’d be surprised how much water can be collected from even the tiniest rainfall.” He has numerous catchments–including those 5-gallon orange buckets from Home Depot or Lowes–set under any corner eave that drips during the rains.


Whiskey, anyone? A whiskey barrel is easy to use and blends into many landscapes. Notice the overflow at the bottom , shunting excess water away from the foundation.

Rainwater Harvesting can be very simple. The simplest systems consist of little more than plastic barrels or drums to store the water. Add a spigot at the bottom and screen the top to prevent insects from intruding and you’ve got yourself a nice rain barrel. Some manufacturers might use durable hardware and heavy-duty fittings in their rain barrels, but the basic idea is simple. Under roof gutters are great places to locate barrels, or any other place where there is a good amount of run-off. Having an overflow hose that runs to the nearest tree is a good idea.

Discretion can be good…this 200 gallon catchment barrel is in an historic neighborhood, well hidden behind the lush vegetation that it waters after the rains.

The incorporation of rain water collection and distribution as part of a responsible landscape design can help ease the burden on municipal water resources. Since rainwater harvesting systems are not connected to municipal water supplies, use of the collected water is exempt from water restrictions. As most gardeners already know, plants do much better with natural rainwater, than with water from the tap.

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