Voices: January/February 2017


January 5, 2017

Issue 22: January/February 2017Voices


Our house is small (just over 1,000 square feet) in the middle of the city and we had a sorry patch of dirt in the front. Now we have plants inside and around our yard that are watered from our tank. The part that I love the most is the backyard, which is watered from our laundry. We have three young fruit trees that we water completely from the loads of laundry we do. We also supplement that with rinse water from doing our dishes. We harvest rainwater with a tank and through a contoured landscape that captures the water.

We chose to harvest rainwater to feed our plants because it’s one way we are sustaining life in the desert—both the abundance of plants and our own ability to continue thriving by not tapping into our fresh water supply.

I harvest rainwater with cisterns and passive earthworks, and some of the rainwater is used two or three times though shower, laundry, and kitchen graywater directed to food plants. One hundred percent of the water consumed here by humans, garden, and native plants comes from the rain—no CAP or City of Tucson water. Why? Rainwater harvesting creates an abundance of native plants that nurture wildlife and our community without consuming energy-intensive, treated water pumped from the Colorado River or the Tucson aquifer. I host public and private tours, including the WMG Homescape Harvest Tour and Tucson Audubon Habitat at Home, to educate and inspire community members to harvest rainwater. Leading by example is the best way to show folks how to use the rain in their lives and community.

I contacted Watershed Management Group about rainwater harvesting because of flooding issues I was having on my back porch every time it rained. While I don’t have a cistern to collect and store water, I harvest rainwater in my front and backyard through gutters on my house, which drain directly into basins. These basins have been created in such a way that one feeds water into the next. Native plantings throughout the front and backyard will require minimal City of Tucson water once they are established in about two years. Also, in my backyard, I installed a laundry-to-landscape graywater system to supplement four trees with every load of laundry I do.

In my front yard, three street-side basins were installed to harvest the water runoff from Camino Seco. The plants and trees in these basins get the benefit from the huge amount of water collected, and the excess water in the basins soaks directly into our aquifer instead of evaporating in the street.

I moved here two years ago with the goal to meet Tucson’s water needs—to buy an existing house and retrofit with rain gardens, rain tanks, and solar. The mostly native plantings are new—barely a year old, and fit well within the limited but mature landscaping already existing, but by no means is the landscape mature. I harvest rainwater by channeling roof runoff into two rain tanks. I can only capture half of my roof. The other side of my roof is also channeled with six-inch gutter and directed by basins to the plantings.

I water predominately with rainwater instead of City of Tucson water as the wisest ecological use of the very limited water supply available for the growing population of Tucson.

I know that the Sonoran Desert is the lushest desert in the world and with the help of Watershed Management Group, I knew that we could make our front yard look beautiful with desert grasses, plants, and trees through passive water harvesting. By capturing and directing water run-off from the street and our roof we are growing gardens that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.

My husband and I were fortunate to have Watershed Management Group help us design our backyard in September of 2015. We’ve installed a cistern and passive collection basins. We have basins for passive collection, we have laundry-to-landscape installed, and we collect our rainwater from the roof into two 550-gallon cisterns. Why? Harvesting rainwater is an inexpensive way to water and keep our plants alive.

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