Stop 12: Water Catchment Basins

Rock-lined gravel area in landscaping
Including a water catchment basin in garden landscaping can help conserve water.

Rainwater harvesting has been practiced for centuries. It can be as simple as creating berms and basins in your landscape. By slowing the flow of water and directing it to spread across your yard or garden, you can maximize the benefit of rainfall without installing a catchment and storage system. At the same time, you’ll reduce uncontrolled flow, which can carry off topsoil and create gullies, worsening erosion and degrading water quality.

This basin traps rainwater and runoff and allows the water to permeate into the ground instead of quickly flowing over it. This is called groundwater recharging, because it allows water to be stored in the soil itself. Groundwater recharging is most commonly done by constructing a series of berms, which are short walls designed to prevent sheetflow. Berms are generally built to follow the contour of the land. They can be earthen or made of rock. When rain falls, it is trapped inside the walls of the berm, where it can permeate the soil instead of swiftly flowing across it.

A key feature of effective basins is mulch. Mulch is a permeable material that can hold water like a sponge. It is often made of cast-off leaves, shredded bark, compost, or other organic materials. It can also consist of loose gravel. Organic mulches also provide important nutrients to landscape plants as they decay. They periodically need to be replenished due to this decomposition.

  • Construct simple basins around vegetation in your yard.  Just a moderate effort with a shovel and rake can provide huge benefits to vegetation.
  • Plant low water-use native plants that are adapted to your local climate.
  • Invest in mulches to enhance the efficiency of your basins.


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Last updated: September 8, 2022