Written by Wynne Weddell

Water is life. Water is Sacred. Mni Wiconi- as we say in Dakota. Water is the interconnection amongst all living beings. The most precious, life-sustaining gift on earth. It is within us. It recharges us and connects us through waterways around the globe, and is an integral part of many ecosystems that support us and a multitude of other species. Our bodies are made up of 60% water, without water we cannot survive for more than a few days. Water shapes our landscapes and blesses us with rivers, lakes, and oceans. In the form of rain, snow, and ice, it transforms the land into barren deserts, carved-out valleys, and rugged mountain peaks. 

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All living organisms on earth depend on water for survival, but our global water supplies are both dwindling and being polluted. As climate change continues to cause more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought, and an increase in duration and intensity of storm systems, we look to ways we can preserve our limited water sources. One important way is the ancient practice of rainwater harvesting.

Rainwater harvesting is the practice of collecting and storing rainwater for use over time. This is typically done from the roof of your home, another building structure, or other impervious surfaces. This practice is both inexpensive and accessible to everyone whether you’re living in an urban setting or living full time on the road. 

Traditionally, the rainwater is harvested from a roof where the rain will collect in gutters that will channel the water into downspouts and into a storage container. A collection system can be as simple as collecting rain in a small barrel or installing large cisterns to supply the needs of an entire household. 

Rain water harvesting in vanlife

Water harvesting is not limited to stationary life though, with a quick internet search of “van life rainwater collection” and “rainwater harvesting”, you will find several different videos and tutorials from folks using various methods to collect rainwater with their homes on wheels.

Benefits of rainwater harvesting


Rainwater harvesting is a sustainable practice and does not require single-use plastics. Purchased water requires a lot of energy in order to transport it to you from the original source, whether it travels through plumbing or via truck to your nearest store. Bottling plants have impacts on local groundwater aquifers and streams. Taking too much water can reduce or deplete groundwater reserves and reduce the flow of streams and lakes, causing stress on ecosystems.


Rainwater harvesting allows self-reliance and doesn’t require a person to purchase water or hook up to on-the grid water sources.


In camping or rural settings, you won’t have leave or look to find water as long as there is some rainfall.

Less contaminants:

Depending on where you are collecting, rainwater has far fewer potential contaminants compared to tap water. 

Uses of rainwater harvesting

  • Bathing
  • Cooking
  • Washing clothes
  • Washing dishes
  • Drinking water

Inspired in learning more about how to harvest rainwater while living nomadically?

Linked are some youtube videos on different methods of water harvesting for life on the road