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Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting, a stormwater management practice, captures or slows down surface stormwater so it can be put to beneficial use. Harvested rainwater can flow to surrounding vegetation to help beautify the landscape and increase shade.

Active rainwater harvesting uses gutters and downspouts to direct water into cisterns that store water for future use. Passive rainwater harvesting uses depressions and/or berms called "earthworks" to store water in the soil, where it can be used by vegetation. Plant the Water Handout (pdf)

Water conservation in a Sonoran desert community is an important community practice and can result in many benefits. 
  • Broad-based implementation of rainwater harvesting could reduce municipal water demand by reducing the need for potable water for irrigation, which accounts for over a third of household water use in Tucson.
  • Rainwater harvesting also prevents water from running into the streets, where it can pick up pollutants that are then transported into washes.
  • Broad-scale rainwater harvesting could result in decreased floodwaters and reduced erosion near culverts and other flood control devices in drainage areas.
  • Incorporating rainwater techniques into residential landscapes has the potential to increase property values by meeting LEED green building requirements.
  • Rainwater harvesting is key to building urban green infrastructure. Storing water in the soil for vegetation provides a cascade of effects such as providing habitat, reducing the urban heat island effect, cooling and shading urban neighborhoods and improving air quality. Such stormwater management that mimics natural processes and maintains natural functions is known as Low Impact Development (LID).


Rainwater harvesting often takes place in the urban environment. As a result, local municipalities have developed guidelines and ordinances to help citizens understand how to harvest rainwater. If you are planning to install a system, please read through the following to learn about regulations that might influence your plans or incentive programs that might help you pay for your system.


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