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How to save water with rainwater harvesting

Help conserve water and lower the cost of your bills with a rainwater collection system in your backyard.

The Austin skyline as seen from a hill at Zilker Botanical Garden

Saok in Austin skyline views at Zilker Botanical Garden.

Photo by @tanodddot

We’re in the thick of the rainy season, Austin.

If you thought April was off to a wet start, prepare yourselves — on average, May and June are even wetter.

There’s a way to make use of some of that extra rain, promote sustainable water practices, and save money on your next water bill. Let’s break it down.

Rainwater harvesting explained

Building a rainwater harvesting system is an easy way to provide non-potable water for your plants. The best part: after some small start-up costs, it’s free, and we love free.

The system collects water off non-permeable surfaces like your roof and funnels it into a storage chamber, like a rain barrel or cistern, to be used when rain isn’t in the forecast — i.e. this summer.

A general rule of thumb: one inch of rainfall produces about a half gallon for every square foot of roof.


Rainwater harvesting supplies non-potable water for happy plants + gardens.

Photo courtesy of Canva

What’s wrong with using my sprinkler?

Nothing, as long as your sprinkler is functioning properly and you’re following local regulations.

Austinites are currently under Stage 2 drought restrictions, meaning residential properties can water their lawns with hose-end sprinklers or automatic one day per week, within certain hours of the day.

Meanwhile, the Texas Tax Code allows property tax exemptions for conservation initiatives like rainwater harvesting systems, and Texas Property Code protects them in residential zones.

How do I get started?

Find rainwater harvesting resources, tips, and best practices from: