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Updated: Apr 6, 2021

Are you planning to add a Rainwater Harvesting System to your homestead?

Do you want to avoid all the mistakes before you get started?

Or did you start a system on a whim and now are having some troubles.

That is what you and I are going to discuss in this blog post. I am going to share with you the top 7 mistakes that should be avoided and if you are already dealing with them how you can solve them with a few quick hacks.

How To Avoid The Top 7 Common Rainwater Harvesting Mistakes

Developing a Rainwater Harvesting System for your homestead can be very beneficial. To you, as it can save you money on your water bill and to your plants, as the rain was designed to be the perfect source of hydration for your plants and animals.

And installing a system can be as easy as placing a huge water tank under a downspout to use for watering your horse. To an intertidal system that involves filtration and cisterns, so you can use the rainwater as your main source of water for your home, garden, and homestead.

The below mistakes are going to help you with either one of these systems and all of them in between. But mostly in a simple backyard or homestead system where the water is going to be used for animals and your garden.

I am going to share these with you in a countdown order from the least to the worst. Let’s get started.

7 Top Rainwater System Mistakes to Avoid

#7 Spending Too Much Money

This mistake is when you purchase equipment before you have a set-out plan. Harvesting rainwater does not need to be complicated. It is really easy to get lost in the barrage of too much information when researching what system you are going to use. Getting lost down the Mr. Google Pant’s Tunnel can happen. And it usually involves you starting with an idea of what you want your system to be and what you want it to do for you. But you end up with a system that is so elaborate and expensive that you decide rainwater harvesting is too complicated and expensive so you throw the whole idea out the window.

Harvesting rainwater can be a very simple and inexpensive investment if you set your goals and priorities first before you tumble down the information overload tunnel.

Fish in Your Rainwater Harvesting System

If your main goal is just to provide water to your livestock or garden then you don’t need any fancy cisterns or tanks and you can use any type of container to store water that is available as long it does not taint the water in any way. You don’t want to use old metal drums or chemical barrels. But you certainly don’t need to limit yourself to those fancy expensive rain barrels that you find at most hardware or feed stores. You can easily use old water tanks or even an old hot tub someone is throwing away to store your rainwater. It is okay to think outside of the box!

#6 Mosquitos

Mosquitos breed in still open water. This can be old tires sitting on your property to your rainwater harvesting storage system. The solution can be solved in two ways, well maybe three.

First, if you are using a barrel or container that only holds a small amount of water, say up to 50 gallons, then screens or even a lid can help deter the mosquito mama’s from laying their eggs in your rainwater.

Second, if you are using the old horse tank idea or even larger you can easily use fish. The 500-gallon water tank that I use here at Red Ridge Farm, houses 8 feeder goldfish very easily year-round. I just have to make sure I don’t completely empty the tank and leave a little water in it in the fall so they have something to hibernate in through the winter. Feeder goldfish are only 20 cents at our local pet store.

But what if you have an established rainwater harvesting system and the eggs are already in the water and you don’t want to add fish. You can use a product called Mosquito Dunks. They add a chemical to the water that kills the mosquitos but will not harm your garden or animals.

#5 Slow the Flow

Using the rainwater from your system can be tedious and downright annoying if you put a too-small faucet or outlet on your tanks or barrels. I remember when I first decided to start gathering rainwater so I could water my indoor plants at first. I just wanted to start small and then expand as I found the tanks and containers I need to expand our system. So those cute little rain barrels that I told you were too expensive above, were on sale so I thought it would be the best thing to start with. It was called a rain barrel after all. I had no problem filling it, and we are going to get into overflow in the next mistake.

It was when I tried to use the rainwater that I ran into trouble. The little tiny spigot that they put on that barrel only let the water trickle out. For me to fill up the small two-gallon bucket I was using to carry the water into my house took almost an hour to fill. It turned a job that should have only taken 15 minutes into 4 times as long. The problem was that tiny little spigot. I have since replaced it and made it my mission to make sure all the spigots on my future containers would never be that small.

Rainstorm runoff

#4 Too Small

As I told you before I had no problems filling up my little 50-gallon rain barrel because my rainwater harvesting system was too small for the amount of rainwater that can come off half my roof during a rainstorm. And this is when I had to deal with mistake #4, have a system that is too small and not accounting for the overflow. About a month after we got our cute little rain barrel our homestead got its first large rainstorm and I was excited beyond measure because it was going to be the first time that I was going to get my rain barrel full to the brim. Our property had a few light showers but nothing of this magnitude yet.

My husband was just as excited as I was. So he decided about 10 minutes into the storm he was going to get on his rain jacket and see how our little rainwater barrel was doing. I waited at the door to hear the news. I waited and waited and waited. About 20 minutes later he came running drenched to the bone through the door and said that the water was gushing out of our rain barrel and running down our house. And that he had spent the last 15 minutes trying to disconnect the system because he was worried that the water was going to get under the seal plate of our house and flood the basement.

Lucky that storm he was home to avoid this overflow problem. And it wasn’t until a few months later when a rainstorm hit and we were both not home that the flooding in the basement occurred. He had thought that he had fixed the problem with an overflow spigot. But it didn’t allow the water to move away from the house like a downspout is designed to do.

A 1000 square roof in a 1” and hour rainstorm can produce up to 600 gallons an hour in rainwater. That is a lot of water. And when you change the flow of that water you need to be ready to deal with the overflow of that water. That leads us to mistake #3.

How To Avoid The Top 7 Common Rainwater Harvesting Mistakes

#3 Landscaping for Overflow

Overflow can be fixed in many ways. The easiest being to expand your rainwater harvesting system but what if you don’t want 5 or 6 tanks littering your backyard.

Another way you can fix overflow is by preparing your landscape to handle the extra water with a rainwater garden. A rainwater garden is a garden design by creating a lower spot or a berm to help contain the water and also provide water for plants in or around this berm or low spot.

What we did to fix our overflow problem was to design a food forest close to our rainwater storage system that uses both of these elements a low spot to navigate the water to where we want it and store it and a system of berms along the trees to slow the water down during a large rain event.

#2 Algae

Algae is a living plant. And thus needs sunlight to photosynthesis. The easiest fix is to paint or use dark-colored tanks. But say you have an open tank then again fish can be your answer. Our 500-gallon water tank is clear and algae was a problem until we got fish. But really if you are using this water for your garden and your animals then little algae will not bother them in any way it just might clog up your hose or spigots which can be annoying.

Pray, Just Plant Podcast

#1 Not Harvesting Rain Water

Now, this might seem like a no-brainer. But like I said before, it is easy for you to get sucked into the trap of too much information so you avoid doing a rainwater system altogether. But I promise you it doesn’t need to be complicated. You just need a little planning and maybe a little out-of-the-box thinking and you can join the ranks of others who store their own rainwater.

Remember every mountain is climbed by first taking that first step! What is your first step going to be? I would love to know, comment below.

Have a blessed day,


How To Avoid The Top 7 Common Rainwater Harvesting Mistakes

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