For most of my life I have taken water for granted. If I need it, I go to any number of faucets and turn the water on. Drinking it, cooking with it, cleaning my body, house and clothes with it, plus giving water to my grass and plants – these are all activities I have assumed will always be available. I’ve traveled most of the United States and assumed water was abundant everywhere too.
And then my son, Christopher, went to college in Sante Fe, New Mexico. His classical education expanded into a lifelong mission to live and help others live according to the principals of sustainability. Living in the dry southwestern United States allowed all of us to see, firsthand, that water cannot be taken for granted. I’ve since learned that there are places all over the world where water is dangerously scarce.
When I told Christopher that water was our Social Justice Challenge issue this month he had two books for me to read. They were both written by a friend and colleague, Brad Lancaster.
I love the rain! I love to drink it, sing in it, dance in it, bathe in it. Of course that’s only natural; our bodies are more than 70% water. You and I and everyone else–we’re walkin’, talkin’, rain.
Rain is the embodiment of life. It infuses water into our springs, rivers, and aquifers. It cools us, greens the land, and nourishes the plants that feed us. It cleans the air, washes salts from the soil, and makes the animals sing.
Yet the world’s supply of fresh water is finite. Less than one half of one percent of all the water on Earth is fresh and available. The rest is seawater, or frozen. Our supply is renewable only from precipitation, a precious gift from the sky. . .
That quote from the first page of the first volume. It is good common sense to make use of the rain that comes our way. The concepts found in these two books not only make sense, they make me, the reader, say “why wouldn’t we harvest the rain?”
Brad starts each volume with his Eight Principles of Rainwater Harvesting. The first one you can do without even reading the book: start by observing with all your senses to see where the water in your area is going. From the Eight Principles Brad then shows us a variety of strategies and techniques for harvesting the rain.
Rainwater harvesting is not difficult nor does it require expensive equipment. The average person can begin with a shovel. Each chapter in Volume 2 covers a different type of rainwater harvesting technique such as berms, basins, terraces, french drains, and mulching.
The chapters also include extensive explanations, steps to building it, and tools and materials needed. Also included is my favorite part, the real-life examples of that technique. The books are filled with extensive drawings and sketches.
These books have been useful for individual homeowners, neighborhoods, businesses and whole communities. These two volumes are excellent resources. Volume three will be out in 2011. Check your public library for availability. They are also available on Amazon.
Brad Lancaster has taught, designed, and consulted on the sustainable design system of permaculture and integrated rainwater harvesting systems since 1993. He lives on the thriving 1/8th-acre urban permaculture site he created in downtown Tucson, Arizona. Brad has an excellent web site: Harvesting Rainwater.