Rainwater catchment’s time has come!

Every time we have a rainfall shortage on the central coast of California we begin to hear talk of water rationing. All of a sudden we begin to see the wisdom of water conservation in all its various forms. Choosing plants for the landscape that are drought tolerant is a great place to start. Installing a drip system is a wise choice to be sure. Another “no brainer” is to catch the rain from the sky.

There are a number of ways to catch rainwater. Storing water in the soil by using swales or bioswales is a relatively inexpensive and effective way. Also, the storage of rainwater in cisterns, what I call “the new urban watershed,” has finally come of age. City and County officials are updating their standards for catchment systems as the need and technologies change. Meanwhile, several local businesses now provide homeowners with the materials and expertise for installing systems. Rainwater can be collected above ground with a wide range of containers, depending on available space and need: from small rain barrels to 5,000-gallon tanks.

On the left is a 200-gallon tank we installed for rainwater catchment at a local residence. We have also installed rainwater catchment systems with large (5,000 gal.+) tanks that are connected. On the right is the rainwater cistern at a widely-acclaimed eco home, the Sullivan House, in Capitola, CA.

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We have been installing rainwater catchment systems since 2007 as this Santa Cruz Sentinel article featuring Terra Nova’s rain gardens attests.


Below ground cisterns are available now as well. Just such a system is offered locally by Bruce from Pondsaway in Santa Cruz (as seen in picture below).


The catchment system at the Sullivan House irrigates their landscape year-round from their large rainwater cistern.
For homeowners within the Soquel Creek Water District, rebates are available for cistern installation (up to $750) as well as for turf replacement (up to $1,000) and smart water timers ($75 to $125) which purport to help the home owner save water. As water rates continue to rise, free water from the sky just makes sense.

Does it make sense for you to catch water from the sky? A rainwater catchment system can pay for itself in as little as a few years depending on the size of the system. Call Terra Nova today for more information: 831-425-3514.


  • Cheryl VanDeVeer says:

    Hi Ken,

    How can I find out more about small water catchment basins and their prices? I’m replacing rain gutters and the City of SC wants the water to be drained into ditches in the backyard. Maybe the water could be contained instead.

    Thanks, Cheryl

  • Chris says:


    Busy at other appts, yet will stop by…Put the Soil Science book in your car…just in case.
    Keep up the good work!

  • We have also but rain water catchments under permeable paver driveways with a float to turn irrigation pump in under ground cistern off, and change over to house water when low, with check valves so house water does not fill up tank. You must use the correct system for under driveway to carry the load.

  • diane cohan says:

    thanks for wonderful reminder of catchment alternatives. We do NOT need a desalination plant here- we may as well get a nuclear plant while we are at it- aaargh$#@! conservation is the answer and it’s basically FREE!

  • ken says:

    Hear, here!

  • Louise says:

    We need estimate to connect a rain barrel or box to a cuurrent french drain & onerflow pump.. Dont have much yard space . Can you come for appt. louise

  • ken says:

    Yup, Please call 831-425-3514.

  • I always ensure an independent water supply, especially during water restriction periods. It’s true, you cannot use it for everything, but it’s usually of acceptable quality for household operations.

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