Collecting rainwater from a catchment area, is a low cost, high quality alternative water source that can supplement traditional water distribution systems and improve the environmental quality of farming operations. Rainwater harvesting involves the collection of rainfall from rooftops or land-based catchments systems for storage and distribution as needed (Figure 1).
Capturing rainfall has the added benefit of improving water quality by reducing soil erosion and runoff. Strategically installed rainwater harvesting systems can be used to direct stormwater around sensitive areas of the farm where animal waste is present, thus reducing the potential for nutrient and pathogen delivery to nearby waterways. Rainwater harvesting and stormwater management techniques can also reduce the volume of water that must be managed in liquid manure management systems by diverting clean water away from manure pits and lagoons.
The image below is an example of a water harvesting system used on Eden Shale Farm. The design of a rainwater harvesting system can be as unique as any farm. A complicated system is not needed for harvesting rainwater. A basic design consists of a catchment area, distribution lines, storage, and a target. Optimization of the system is accomplished by matching the size of the system to livestock water demand.
For more information on water harvesting, click the button to download the University of Kentucky publication.