In this article, we are going to cover the basics of rainwater.

First, we will talk 5 ways water can work for you. (Instead of you working so hard).
Second, I will give you some advice for starting your rainwater system. (Avoid simple mistakes!)
And third, I’m going to inspire you & invite you to be on a water team together. 



As a permaculture teacher and consultant, I believe water is one of the most important topics of sustainable living. 

Without it, there can be no life.
With it, an oasis of life and food is possible. 

Poorly managed it can destroy homes, landscapes, and whole communities.
When managed well, its destructive powers are negated and we can put it to work for us!

Here are the 5 ways water can be put to work:

  1. Fire security & Temperature stabilization:
    In a world full of fires and climate change, water around your home in a tank, in a pond, or stored in the ground/soil are valuable for moderating extremes and for fighting fire. 
  2. Irrigation & Drinking:
    While most of us are unlikely to invest in a full water cleaning system to drink the water off our roof, your lawn, garden, and trees can drink it with minimal cleaning. (More on that in a bit). 
  3. Life Itself:
    Water is life. Most living things are ~75% water! So when we encourage water to sink into our soils rather than run off, a cascade of life occurs. 
    It starts with the bacteria & fungi. They flourish & form relationships with plants and trees. In turn, the animal kingdom flourishes. (Like us!)
  4. POWER: 
    That word is always better in ALL CAPS… try yelling it in a villain’s voice. 🙂
    Seriously though, water has serious kinetic potential. Maybe you aren’t going to own a waterwheel, but micro-hydro is one of the most underutilized power systems in the world. A pond or dam uphill replaces a chemical battery. 
  5. Recreation:
    Everyone enjoys water. Sauna and cold plunge? Kiddy pool? Swimming? Water fight?
    Think of how many ways that water makes us happy and relaxed – at the lake, beach, ocean, or the Nordic Spa. 
    In my honest opinion, EVERY property should have a water feature. 

One of my jobs as a Permaculture consultant and designer is to stack these functions for you. 
Use your water 5 times instead of using 5 times more water. 


One of the simplest ways to become “more sustainable” is to stick a barrel under your downspout. 
Let’s give you some power tips to make that 10x times better. 

First of all, clean the water going in.
Filter large stuff out by using a gutter screen, buy a “Leaf-eater”, or make your own filter using chicken wire and an oil funnel. 
Filter small stuff like dirt and bird shit with a “first flush diverter”.

Second power tip – cover or paint your rain tank black.
This stops light from going in and forming life. Less cleaning. 

Third power tip – place your rain tank strategically.
Want cool water? North side of the house.
Want hot water? South side of the house. 

Fourth power tip – Place your tank slightly raised for gravity water. 
Even just a couple of cinder blocks! So much better than watching water dribble out of the hose. 


Having worked on numerous “water” jobs, I want to share with you some of the water solutions I created for clients. 

    This client wanted to use the water off the roof to water the school kids garden.
    Rather than just raising the water, we built a mini-shed under the rain tank! 


    This was an incredibly inspiring project. The city let us build a food forest on city land. 
    100% built by the community. On a shoestring budget!

    The site is 3 “swales” – an earthworks feature that holds water high up in the landscape with a level ditch. 
    Then we planted fruit trees over the mound and built a pathway of recycled concrete below it. 


    I saved the most inspiring for last. This is my main client right now.
    They own 160 acres of mountain. And we are turning the whole thing into a network of swales and ponds.

    I am designing the place to be a world-class permaculture demonstration site. 
    Drought proof, fire-protected, and an oasis of life. Here is a sneak-peak of the design we just started installing. 
    (NOTE: All the blue and green lines are swales and terraces. 30+ ponds!)

Pretty damn exciting, right?

If you need some more inspiration, guidance, or support for how to make the most of water on your property, I do virtual consults, 1/2 day consults, and also take on large clients to help them survey, design, and install the property of their dreams. 

You can contact me >>>HERE<<< for my services.

Your consultant & designer,

Kenton Zerbin

(Kenton is a passionate educator for sustainable living who lives in an off-grid tiny house. Kenton runs a wide array of workshops on tiny homes, sustainable living, and edible landscaping. He also does consulting and design for homeowners, communities, and businesses.)

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