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The simplest and most common form of rainwater catchment is the rain barrel. Most domestic rain barrels are attached to the downspout. When it rains, water dribbles down your shingles and into your gutters. From there, it goes down the drainpipe and into the barrel. Other forms of water catchment include cisterns, artificial ponds and rain gardens.

Water catchment systems have three major functions: To divert water, to conserve water and to prevent run-off. If you live in a place like Seattle, you are probably more concerned with diverting water and preventing run-off than you are with conserving it. (Of course, you are still concerned with water conservation.)

Diverting Water

Water is called the universal solvent, because it will eventually dissolve anything given enough time. Therefore, you will want to keep water from pooling around the base of your house. Diversion is also employed to move water to a place where it can be stored. You can also divert water to a rain garden or other run-off preventing measure.

Preventing Runoff

Erosion is problematic. We are losing about 1 percent of our topsoil a year. Here are a few ways to divert run off and erosion.

- Build terraces.

- Plant native plants.

- Build a rain garden.

- Mulch.

- Don't till your soil.

- Build a retaining wall.

Reusing Water

Rain barrel water is most commonly used in the garden. You can also use rainwater to.

- Flush your toilet.

- Wash your hair.

- Treat the water and drink it.

- Clean your fish tank.

- Wash your siding.

- Give to livestock.

- Fill your pool.

Water catchment systems are important to the longevity of our houses, the sustainability of our drinking water and the conservation of our topsoil. So practice it and you'll benefit three times over.