Rainwater Capture

Creative and DIY solutions to capturing rainwater, from designer Leon Davis

Rainwater Capture Cube
Rainwater capture system Rainwater capture view of water capture process

The Rainwater Capture Cube seeks to combat the widespread replacement of planting and greenspace with hard surfaces surrounding urban homes, which increases rainfall run off, and contributes to localised flooding during heavy rain.
The loss of greenspace around homes reduces biodiversity, wildlife habitats, and increases urban temperatures. The lack of planting offers no opportunity for pollutants within the air and rainwater run-off to be filtered out. Access to greenspace also boosts people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Water buttRHS guides to water in the garden

The risk of sewer overflows and surface water flooding has increased, due in part to green spaces being paved over. Rainwater Harvesting seeks to show alternatives to paving over which slow the flow of rainwater, stores and reuses it.

According to the National Infrastructure Committee, 600,000 properties face future flooding without action to reduce urban runoff and improve drainage systems. This project is part of a wider educational and awareness-raising project led by the North West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (North West RFCC) in partnership with the Environment Agency, United Utilities, and Lancashire County Council.

Five key elements

Rainwater Capture Cube

1. Recycled leaky water butt
Practical and cost-effective way of capturing, storing, and reusing rainwater, and helping to slow its flow into rivers and sewer systems.
Green roof2. Cycle store with green roof and water butt
To encourage active travel while also exploring how other elements such as green roof systems and water capture could be incorporated.
3. Rain garden planter and seat
Practical and cost-effective way of slowing rainwater flow to sewer systems. The planting provides habitats for nature, urban cooling benefits, and amenity value. The seat incorporated within the planter encourages householders to spend time outside, observing nature, and taking mindful moments.
4. Permeable surface material demonstration (owned by GreenBlue Urban)
Display of a visible cross section of layers of permeable material which demonstrates drainage of rainfall directly into the ground.
5. Sustainable drainage (SuDS) house (owned by Trent Rivers Trust)
The SuDS House is a model which showcases to the public the contrasting effects on rainwater runoff between a sustainably drained garden and a hard surfaced garden.

See the plant list

Alchemilla erythropoda
Ajuga reptans
Aquilegia vulgaris
Bergenia ‘Diamond Drops’
Carex ‘Everest’
Dryopteris felix-mas
Hemerocallis ‘Hyperion’
Hosta ‘Halcyon’
Iris sibirica
Persicaria affinis ‘Darjeeling Red’
Thalictrum aquilegiifolium
Vinca minor ‘Atropurpurea’

Meet the designer

Leon Davis

In 2012 Leon set up his own garden design consultancy and has achieved recognition with five RHS Gold medal and Best in Show awards.
Leon’s 2021 RHS Tatton Show Garden Garden of Resilience for United Utilities explored how gardens can be more climate resilient. The garden was awarded Gold, Best Construction and Best in Category awards and was relocated to RHS Bridgewater.

Leon’s urban gardening tips

  • Plant a small tree, they are not only great for wildlife but also help combat flooding by intercepting rainwater and improving soil aeration, allowing water to drain through.
  • Install a water butt, there are lots of DIY ideas out there. You’ll not only be helping to conserve water but you’ll be helping reduce flooding too. Plants also prefer rainwater over tap water.
  • Apply mulch as this will help trap moisture in the soil and protect it from the drying effects of wind and sun.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.