September 2014
For What It's Worth

Let It Rain

Proud partners, from left, are Jay Grantland, Marcus Garner and Mike Roden.  

Rainwater catchment system installed at Extension’s Small Ruminant Outreach Center

The Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys RC&D Council recently provided and installed a rainwater catchment system on the barn of the Small Ruminant Outreach Center at the Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station in Hazel Green. This will help with future expansion on the concept of Alabama Ethnic Food Security Network, a component of this project, and utilize a natural resource that is recognized as being organic. The next phase is to plan and implement several types of gardens with specialty vegetables. The barn did not have any type of rainwater control or catchment system and rainwater was falling directly onto the ground and starting to erode immediate areas surrounding the barn. The Small Ruminant Outreach Center is an Extension-led project with intent to showcase best management practices and options for sheep and goat production. The rainwater catchment system provided by the AMRV RC&D is considered a partnering educational component that will demonstrate sustainable agriculture.

AMRV RC&D provided the materials, labor and installation at no cost to Extension. Mike Roden, executive director, and Jay Grantland, projects manager, with AMRV RC&D delivered the materials and did the majority of installation. Marcus Garner, urban regional Extension agent, and I assisted during the four-hour installation process. The catchment system including a 1,100-gallon plastic tank and installation has a value in excess of $2,500, not including labor.

  Based on one inch of rainfall, the accumulation of rainwater for this one section of roof is 935 gallons.

Water is a natural resource that tends to be in short supply and a matter of dispute in some regions of the United States. Rain provides a natural way of watering vegetation, but occurs inconsistently. Rainwater is an organic way to water vegetables, but availability is dependent upon the weather. Harvesting rainwater is a practice that has been around for centuries; cisterns have been utilized to collect rainwater for household use. In situations where water sources are limited, the ability to establish and utilize a rainwater catchment system for irrigating vegetables and fruits has significant benefits. The capability to capture or harvest rainwater and disperse as needed for watering vegetation is considered organic, reduces vulnerability to rainfall variations, and reduces costs and reliance associated with public water. Capturing rainwater rather than allowing it to gain momentum from the roofs and directly wash onto the ground eliminates the potential for soil erosion and nutrient run-off.

Capturing or harvesting rainwater from roofs of buildings is a fairly simple process. It requires a sloped roof, rainfall, some type of gutter system to catch the rainwater from the roof, a drain pipe, and a plastic vat or barrel to hold the water until needed for irrigation.

The generosity of Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys RC&D Council and staff is greatly appreciated; the rainwater catchment system lifts this facility to a whole new level. RC&D Councils throughout Alabama have always been great supporters of Extension, and champions for natural resources, education and agriculture!


Rainwater Harvesting, Wikipedia http:/, Retrieved July 21, 2014.

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.