Urban rainwater harvesting systems: Research, implementation and future perspectives

Water Res. 2017 May 15:115:195-209. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2017.02.056. Epub 2017 Mar 2.


While the practice of rainwater harvesting (RWH) can be traced back millennia, the degree of its modern implementation varies greatly across the world, often with systems that do not maximize potential benefits. With a global focus, the pertinent practical, theoretical and social aspects of RWH are reviewed in order to ascertain the state of the art. Avenues for future research are also identified. A major finding is that the degree of RWH systems implementation and the technology selection are strongly influenced by economic constraints and local regulations. Moreover, despite design protocols having been set up in many countries, recommendations are still often organized only with the objective of conserving water without considering other potential benefits associated with the multiple-purpose nature of RWH. It is suggested that future work on RWH addresses three priority challenges. Firstly, more empirical data on system operation is needed to allow improved modelling by taking into account multiple objectives of RWH systems. Secondly, maintenance aspects and how they may impact the quality of collected rainwater should be explored in the future as a way to increase confidence on rainwater use. Finally, research should be devoted to the understanding of how institutional and socio-political support can be best targeted to improve system efficacy and community acceptance.

Keywords: Rainwater harvesting; Stormwater management; Sustainable urban water systems; Water conservation; Water efficiency.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cities
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Rain*
  • Water Supply / economics*