Water Catchment System

What is Water Catchment?

Water catchment, also known as water harvesting, is the process of collecting and storing rainwater.  Water catchment systems collect water from rain gutters and use pipes to direct it to a storing drum, barrel, or cistern.  Once collected, pumps move the water from the storing drum to where it needs to go. Typically, rainwater is used for landscape irrigation or domestic tasks such as flushing toilets and washing clothes.  If the system has sufficient filtration, rainwater can be reused as drinking water.

Water catchment systems can be expensive and complex for industrial use, but the great thing about them is they can also be easily and inexpensively designed for domestic purposes.

PCEI’s Water Catchment

The water catchment system at PCEI was introduced during the summer of 2007.  With a 1,600 gallon rainwater cistern already in place at PCEI’s Nature Center, former AmeriCorps member, Jim Ekins, began work on the solar-powered pump system that moves rainwater from the cistern to the pantry garden. The project began on July 5th in 100-degree heat with the help of Upward Bound leader Aaron Kraft. Ekins and Kraft measured, planned, and dug for 4 days before Upward Bound students came to help finish digging trenches and begin installing pipes. Eight days later on July 12th, the project was completed, and Upward Bound students were the first to water the pantry garden using the water catchment system.

Why Use a Water Catchment System?

Although water catchment systems are not aesthetically pleasing, the benefits of having one are well worth the eyesore:

  • stored rainwater is replaced by fresh water for domestic tasks and landscape irrigation;
  • systems are easily assembled with little professional help;
  • systems can be as simple as storing runoff water in a drum at the end of your rain gutter;
  • systems can be inexpensive;
  • systems don’t have to be put together at once, so you can pay as you build;
  • systems are easily reconfigured, expanded, and relocate if needed; and
  • repairs and maintenance are easy because systems are above ground.

How it Works

Rainwater flows through the gutters of the Gertrude Danielson-Perrine House and is directed by pipes to a 1,600 gallon cistern.  The collected water irrigates hops that have been planted along a shade-providing trellis and is moved uphill by a 64-watt solar panel that runs a 12-volt pump to the Pantry Garden.

Further Resources


Design for Water: Rainwater Harvesting, Storm Water Catchment, and Alternate Water Reuse by Heather Kinkade-Levario.  Available at both the UI and Public Libraries

Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds for Domestic Supply, Fire and Emergency Use–Includes How to Make Ferrocement Water Tanks by Art Ludwig.  Available at the Public Library


Doityourself.com, search “rainwater catchment”