A stream near your garden provides free, accessible water for plants.

How to Collect Stream Water for Watering a Garden

by Amelia Allonsy

A vegetable garden requires a lot of work, but it's a great way to ensure your family eats the freshest, healthiest food possible. Fruits and vegetables require plenty of water to develop a tasty crop. You'll have to resort to watering the plants yourself during periods of drought, which is sure to increase your water bill. If you plant your garden near a stream on your property, you can collect water from the stream to water the garden. Use this time to let the kids cool off and play in the water as well.

Cover the opening of a bucket or jug with a piece of wire mesh screen, such as a piece of window screen, which prevents fish and debris from entering the bucket. Wrap elastic cord or a string around the screen to hold it in place around the bucket. Use a bucket that holds no more than you can safely carry when it's filled with water.

Add 5-gallon buckets, barrels or a water storage tank to the bed of a pickup truck or utility vehicle. This step is optional, but makes it easy to transport large quantities of water from the stream. This is especially helpful if the garden is close to the stream.

Dip the bucket into the stream to fill it with water. Submerge the entire bucket if the water is deep enough, or tip the bucket on its side in shallow water. You won't be able to fill the entire bucket in shallow water; use a large cup to scoop water from the stream and into the bucket to fill it to the top.

Carry the bucket of water from the stream directly to your plants. Pour the water into a watering can, which creates a more gentle shower to water the plants than just dumping the water from the bucket. Water washes away before it can drain into the soil if you simply pour it from the bucket to the ground. Alternatively, carry the bucket to the truck or utility vehicle and transport it to the bed, then pour it into buckets by the bed or into the watering can. If you use a 5-gallon bucket to collect from the stream and the bed is filled with 5-gallon buckets, you can simply trade for an empty bucket before returning to the stream. Continue filling the buckets until you water all the plants or fill all your buckets, barrels or tanks.

Items you will need

  • Bucket
  • Mesh screen
  • Elastic cord or string
  • Cup
  • Utility vehicle or truck (optional)
  • Water storage tank or barrels (optional)


  • Sometimes streams have steep embankments that prevent you from accessing the stream bed. If there's a strong tree branch hanging over the stream, you can tie a strong rope to the bucket, throw the bucket and rope over the branch, and use the rope to lower the bucket into the stream. Pull the rope to bring the full bucket out of the water, using the branch and string like a pulley -- similar to how you would collect water from a well. Some water will splash out of the buckets, but this method still allows you to collect free water.


  • Only collect water from a stream you are familiar with, so you know the water is not contaminated.
  • Do not collect standing water from a stream when the water level is down. The water level drops during periods of drought; standing water attracts mosquitoes and collects bacteria.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images