Snowmelt Harvesting – What Is It?

Save Water Next Summer by
Harvesting Snowmelt Now

Muddy, waterlogged soil… flooding on pavement… dirty, “slushy” snow on sidewalks.

If you’ve lived in Jackson Hole for a while, you’re well acquainted with our annual massive snowmelt each spring. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience. But what if you could harvest that melting snow, save energy and benefit the environment? Well, you can!

Did You Know…

Eight of the most significant U.S. floods of the 20th century  were caused by snowmelt?

Like rainwater harvesting, capturing and storing water from melted snow is done at the location where it occurs. This harvesting can be achieved on a small scale for a single home—through a system of sloped roofs and rain gutters—or on a large scale, through a system of swales.

In Jackson, most of our water supply arrives in the spring. But, of course, the highest demand for outdoor water usage is in the summer. By capturing and storing snow melting from rooftops (and perhaps even sidewalks and other impervious areas), you can better manage this valuable resource.

Small-Scale Snowmelt Harvesting

The simplest way to capture both melting snow and rainwater is a sloped rooftop and a gutter system. Many homeowners already practice this by simply extending downspouts from gutters and directing the water across lawns and gardens.

A small-scale harvesting system can be as simple or as complex as you choose. Basically, you will need the following:

Creative Commons Photo by Roger Mommaerts

A sloped roof with rain gutters and downspouts.

A filter to screen out debris, such as leaves, that can clog your system.

A container to hold the water (unless you’re directing the downspouts directly to the watering spot). The container can be any type, such as a barrel or trash container, but it must have a secure cover to keep out debris and prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water. Multiple websites  offer barrels specifically designed for harvesting rainwater/snowmelt.

A delivery system to transport the water from the container to where you need it: A pail, a hand or mechanical pump, or maybe a gravity-fed hose.

Optional extras would include a basic mechanical water filtration system, a large above-ground storage tank, or an underground storage tank.

On a Larger Scale

Do you own a lot of acreage? You can utilize melting snow to supply a large bulk of your irrigation needs by digging swales.

Swales are an effective way of capturing snow and harvesting the water. The in-situ nature of swales allows the water to be used directly, minimizing the need to transport water back and forth across the property.

The following video by ZOE Farms explains in detail how the swale system works:

Benefits of Snowmelt Harvesting

The benefits of capturing snowmelt for Jackson-area homeowners are many:

U.S. Forest Service Photo, Public Domain

Provides a convenient water source close to where the water is needed (e.g., runoff from rooftops used to irrigate adjacent gardens).

Provides better water for plants and crops than treated water.

Minimizes erosion and downstream flooding by reducing the flow of water to stormwater drains.

Reduces stormwater pollution and helps keep fertilizers, pesticides, etc. from being transported to rivers and ground water.

Facilitates “green infrastructure” on a local scale, contributing water efficiency and design innovation.

Reduces water bills and energy used to treat and deliver water for outdoor uses.

We Can Help

The professionals at TLC can help you create a snowmelt harvesting system that’s perfect for your landscape. We’ve got the sustainable, closed-loop solution you’ve been looking for.


Featured Image: Pixabay

Headwaters Corporation

Grow Gothenburg

National Weather Service


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