Social Justice Challenge Issue: Water

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.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond (Volume 1 and 2)

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.

About the Author:

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.

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11 Responses to Social Justice Challenge Issue: Water

  1. caite says:

    maybe time to think about that rain barrel.

  2. Stacy says:

    Jason & I were watched House Hunters International (love that show) and in Melbourne, Australia rain harvesting is becoming very popular there and you were able to see the individual rain collectors behind the houses. Before that I didn’t realize regular houses would have something so big to do the job. Your son chose a great field of study.

  3. This is such a fascinating issue. I remember how surprised I was to read that so much of the strategizing in Mideast wars relates to getting water to troops!

  4. We do take water for granted in this country. When I was growing up, one of my dad’s best friends was from the Phillipines. He said the first time he saw rain in the US, he couldn’t understand why people weren’t outside bathing in it. In Bermuda, they do harvest rainwater for use. Fantastic post!

  5. Barbara says:

    Your son has chosen one of the most important professions of this age. We Americans especially are terribly wasteful of water and guilty of polluting much of what we have. We live near the Susquehanna River which feeds into Chesapeake Bay so we have been taught to be very careful about products we use in our fields and on our lawns. It’s our most precious resource.

  6. It’s amazing how easily we take things like this for granted. Whenever our power goes out I’m reminded how lucky and fortunate we are that at the twist of a faucet we can get a cup of life sustaining liquid!

    I loved this one!

  7. Erin says:

    Both of those books sounds interesting! Rainwater harvesting reminds me of my grandpa. He always had barrels out to capture the rain from the gutters. He used it to water his massive garden. When I was little I thought it was weird (no one else I knew did that!), but now I am seeing much of that generation’s wisdom in using what is available and being resourceful . . . instead of being fooled into taking the convenient way out. Good review!

  8. Wendy says:

    These sound like great resources – I have to admit, I wouldn’t have even thought about harvesting rainwater…but what a great idea. We could all do so much more to conserve our water supplies.

  9. WordLily says:

    Thanks for this great review! What’s Volume 3 going to be about?

  10. Pingback: Review Roundup for Water Issue | Social Justice Challenge

  11. What a brilliant choice of book for this month’s challenge! We have been a bit lazy about overcoming the setback of having an old metal downpipe on our old house, which is the only place we have to cllect rainwater from our roof – it’s definitely time to get a bit of oomph and sort it!

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