Water Conservation Methods and Rainwater Harvesting Methods

Pursuing Rainwater Harvesting Methods

Meg West (Landscape Architect, Permaculturalist, founder of Leaf Landscape, and consultant to the SEGO Center) recently produced an informational video on water conservation methods and rainwater harvesting methods that we would like to share. Since we are pursuing a mission to open source project-launch blueprint teacher/demonstration communities for the Highest Good of All, we at One Community are continuously searching out the most sustainable strategies to integrate into our own designs.



Meg’s video is timely because we’ve been recently researching water conservation methods and water catchment to integrate into the design of the  earthbag village model (Pod 1). The water catchment for each different type of building and the seven different village models will be different, but the basics of rainwater harvesting methods and establishing gardens for each area will be similar.  We will base our designs around where the water comes from and how and where to channel it, using the proper tools (such as pulaskis) to move the soil and create the proper channeling.

We plan to apply the principles of both the greywater and water catchment systems specifically to the unique needs of each site, altering as we go to make exceptions for variations in plant species, soil conditions, slope, exposure, and other conditions.  We will also incorporate native plants into our designs where possible in order to utilize all of the catchment water if possible. This will allow us to depend on as little of the spring water as necessary while also ensuring any water that doesn’t get used goes back into the soil and/or eventually to the water table.


For those who are interested, we are attaching a video on basic water conservation methods focusing on rainwater harvesting methods and how the planetary water cycle interacts with the ocean.  For your convenience, we have included a summary of the key points below the video. Enjoy!

Check out the Video Summary Below


The water cycle is 100% dependent on our oceans.  Evaporation from our oceans condenses as vapor to form clouds and returns to the Earth as rain, snow, and hail. Since much of it is trapped as ice and snow for what could be years at a time, our immediate reliance is on rainfall.

Typically, much of the rainfall is absorbed by our natural landscapes through plants and dirt.  However, over 70% of our cities are a hardscape (non-absorbent materials like buildings and streets).  This causes the precipitation to run off and pollute streams, lakes and oceans when we could otherwise design our landscapes to take advantage of that water by local utilization. Preserving the water we have is critical because by keeping more water on site, we reduce our irrigation needs and replenish the existing water table.  With greater integration of natural landscape, more water is naturally retained and absorbed into the soil or available to funnel off for other uses.  For example, instead of using drinking water for landscaping purposes, we could use the rain Mother Nature naturally provides that otherwise runs into oceans and streams.

Rainwater Harvesting Methods

One of the rainwater harvesting methods that takes advantage of the rain Mother Nature provides is establishing a rain garden.   This involves creating swales and berms and utilizing native plants, rain gutters, and rain barrels.  Proper plant selection also attracts bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.  The use of gravel mulches accents the plant selection and encourages proper drainage while organic mulches around trees slowly breaks down and replenishes nutrients for them as well as edible plants.

Filling small swales with bark and gravel retains moisture and allows rainfall to be absorbed into the soil and taken up by plants.  Plants play a significant role in cleansing the environment.  Pervious pavers can also be used on walkways to maintain a clean landscape and to allow water absorption.

Water conservation methods

Rainwater harvesting methods such as establishing rain gardens are most effective once one has a proper understanding of where the water comes from, so it can be redirected for maximum landscape benefits.  Downspouts with splash blocks keep the water away from foundations and also can direct water to plants that can tolerate larger quantities, as well as prevent runoff pollution.


Another method of utilizing the water via rainwater harvesting methods is to create ocean friendly gardens.  Ocean friendly gardens are designed to prevent runoff that would eventually pollute our oceans.  The three primary objectives of these gardens are to:

  • Capture and distribute water
  • Use appropriate plants
  • Allow water to filter down to plant roots

The initial step is to remove the turf, if any, and contour the land with trenches, berms, and swales to capture the water. This enables it to seep into the ground, recharges the groundwater in the soil, and makes it available for plant utilization.  Once the contouring is complete, a compost tea is added that serves as a biological activator.  Then old newspaper, cardboard, or butcher block paper is laid down to act as a weed barrier. Finally, an organic sheet mulch, about 3-4″, is applied.  This also serves as an additional weed barrier and both act as sponges to retain water and prevent runoff even further.  Both of these barriers will break down over time which adds nutrients that help to build up the soil. Additional mulch is added when necessary.

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Before building an ocean friendly garden and implementing rainwater harvesting methods, it is important to understand where the water naturally flows on the land. The best way to determine where your water is coming from and going to is to observe its flow during a rain shower.  Since both soil and plants filter the water before it reaches the water table, the goal is to direct it into the landscape and avoid allowing it to exit on hard surfaces.  Therefore, water coming off a roof or exiting a downspout should be re-directed where necessary by the land contours or with rain diverters (simple extension tubes for your downspouts) towards your swales and holding areas.

It can then settle into the ground and not run directly into the street and end up carrying pollutants (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, automobile exhaust that settles everywhere, etc.) into the otherwise eventual destination, the oceans. As a final tip for best results with rainwater harvesting methods, try to divert water 10′ away from buildings to avoid moisture problems, particularly with basements.

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"In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model.

You create a new model and make the old one obsolete. That, in essence, is the higher service to which we are all being called."
~ Buckminster Fuller ~