Harvesting Rainwater in the Urban Environment

Greg Peterson
Monday, 16th June 2014

In urban areas of concrete and tarmac, rain not only causes flooding but is often a wasted resource, running off into drains.

Here Brad Lancaster shows how he and his neighbours harvested rainwater to transform their barren, desert-like street into a living orchard, packed with edibles and greenery.

Firstly they created sunken water harvesting earthworks (rain gardens) to harvest rain water. These were planted with a range of trees and then mulched, preventing evaporation and feeding the trees along the street.

Then the asphalt driveways and pavement were removed, allowing water to runoff the road into the rain gardens.

This water then feeds the huge range of native plants that have been planted along the street. They grow a cactus plant with edible fruit that can also be turned into free conditioner, plus the seeds can be used as an alternative to poppy seeds, there are pomegranates, desert ironwood (Olneya tesota), the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) with flowers buds that can be pickled and the mesquite tree, with edible seeds.

The walkway provides free food for the neighbourhood, a lovely space to walk through and makes good use of excess rainwater - a neighbourhood botanical garden making the most of their resources with no waste. 

Further resources

Book: Ferrocement Water Tanks

Building a rain garden

Watch: How to build a rain garden

DIY rainwater fed toilet made easy