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 Author: streamdynamics
PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 3:13 pm 
The rain, outside my window, overflows the gutter and splashes into a clump of feather grass. The juniper seems to stretch it's foliage to the gray sky to receive the rain drops that fall. I can practically feel the roots pushing into the wet humus. The air smells rich, like wet moss by a gushing stream.
This is what the desert waits for. All year long, the plants patiently stand through the sparse rains and quaking heat of New Mexico. When winter comes, they absorb the moisture of snow and sleet, but it is not till the monsoons come that the real life springs from the Earth.
In New Mexico, once the monsoons come in early July, we can experience almost daily showers. Often, you see a little stratus cloud in the early morning and by 4 o'clock a massive castle-like, steel-gray thunderhead looms over the sky and cracks open like an eggshell with a boom of thunder, and the rains come streaking down. Monsoons are the times when the grasses are vibrant, when the flowers bloom in their most vivid colors and in the dewy mornings, bird-song is prevalent. From July-September (if it's a good year), the desert of New Mexico gets a wonderful dousing of living things' most revered resource: water.
But what happens to most of that water? We so value that short time when moisture graces us, but a lot of our rain water runs down the streets. If you saw the corner of Yankie Street and Bullard Street in Silver City on the week we had those huge storms, you would know. Why don't we, communities who need water and see so little of it, take advantage of the summer storms?
Cities in the desert are constantly thirsty. We all, living in a dry climate, have a little nagging fear that at some point, our town aquifers might dry up and we would have no water to drink. This fear is what drives us to divert streams and dam up great rivers, just so we can gaze, assured, at the massive bodies of water at our disposal. Maybe, we need not be so afraid. Maybe, instead of using aquifer water to water during rain showers, we could save that valuable ground water for drinking and instead look to another source of water. Not our precious rivers, lifelines for all wildlife, but to another source that comes down by the bucketful in August: rain.
There are many different ways to harvest rain water: tanks that receive the water collected on your roof and gutters, curb cuts that can directly channel storm run-off into your yard, direct flow into gardens, and many other ways, each way customized by who's applying it and what kind of property they are applying it to. There are two basic kinds of rainwater harvesting systems: active and passive. Active systems generally use receptacles or containers of some sort to store rainwater for a later time. These systems can use piping or filtration systems. Active systems are generally more expensive than passive systems. Passive systems divert water through earthworks or non-moving constructions, storing water in the soil rather than in a container.
Whatever system is installed on a property, basic physics, science, math, ecology, and imagination are required for installation. Different land has different slopes and contours, different soil and different uses. Generally, in our area, harvested rainwater is used for watering gardens and landscaping. Especially if native plants are used, rainwater harvesting can be a viable choice for commercial landscaping (or xeriscaping) as well.
When some think of rainwater harvesting, they think of a small amount of water being collected in a bucket and dumped on a garden. Sure this is small scale way of harvesting, but other, more critically engineered ways can produce massive amounts of water. “Even a 2,000 square foot rooftop in the Mojave desert that receives five inches of rain annually experiences over 6,000 gallons of runoff” according to Todd L.Gaston in the Rainwater Harvesting in the Southwestern United States research paper he wrote.Rainwater harvesting can collect a huge amount of water and can be economically as well as ecologically viable.

We live in the desert, a parched region that gets annual monsoons. It only makes sense to collect this resource if we want to continue thriving in Southwestern New Mexico. We can't expect to continue living for much longer if our cities continue to grow and if we don't think of a way to get water. It just makes so much sense. Why water lawns, when you can have Stream Dynamics put in a water-harvesting system? Why pay for water for your garden when you can convert water-not-being-used into a free resource? Rainwater harvesting is beneficial both economically and environmentally.

--Ella Kirk, Stream Dynamics Inc.

Gaston, Todd L. "Rainwater Harvesting in the Southwestern United States." Stream Dynamics Inc., 6 May 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.

To learn more about Stream Dynamics Inc. and the work we do, visit www.streamdynamics.us or find us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/streamdynamics

 Author: patriceontheroad
PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:39 pm 
Give it a read,

 Author: Jean Eisenhower
PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:53 am 
Thank you, Ella, for the beautiful writing, and Patrice for sharing it. Stream Dynamics is having an Open House tomorrow night (Thursday), 5-7, at their new office in the College Street Plaza. It's time we all learn how to retrofit our designed environment to acknowledge that we live in a desert, not just another city modeled on Europe's designs (where water is shed away as fast as possible).


 Author: Kevin B
PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2014 12:06 pm 
Recently I was in Tucson and found myself awe struck by the amazing abundance of growth in their medians, along the walkways and in people's yards. Not just low lying ground cover, scrub or clumps of grass, but towering, healthy, flowering desert plants, some bearing fruit, many (if not most) natives, but some apparently mid east imports too. And the colors; rainbows don't have such brilliant colors. Intermittently patches of rock work, tiles, or bricks were integrated in with a spontaneous, free spirited kind of feel. I was so amazed, puzzled really, I made a point of going for a walk just to study the ground and to look for anything that might offer some hint as to why that City is so imbued with life. The fact is, Tucson's annual rainfall is about half of what we get, but you'd never know that to look at the place.

As I casually strolled around I realized this whole other effect was also in play. On foot, my interaction with these surroundings was completely different than driving past in a car. I was energized by it, drawn to connect with it by something that's maybe what a moth feels in the presence of bright light. The narrow strips of dirt between the streets and the sidewalks in Tucson are like springs of life. I felt healthy, happy, relaxed, I wanted to just keep walking around. That's when I realized, there was no graffiti, no vandalism, no litter, at least none that I saw. There were kids, even punk looking kids, and certainly people, many more people than we have here, but no pointless damage, no desecration, and no armed guards around either just a kind of natural relationship between the surroundings and those who lived there. And just about the time that was all coming to me, I realized how quiet it was. It was 10:30AM, I was walking around in the middle of a city with over a half million people, and could have easily maintained a conversation at a near whisper. I found myself thinking the plants must be absorbing the noise, dulling the sound level to a hush. And maybe that's true, but then I also realized the way people behaved, the way they drove, was different.

Many of the intersections I crossed had no traffic control. Some had lines painted across the pavement to delineate where the intersection was, but no signs or traffic lights, which didn't seem to matter since drivers slowed down anyway. And it didn't seem like there were laws or threats of penalty behind that, there was just something matter of fact about it. Was it some pervasive respectfulness? What would cause that? Was it because of plants growing in the medians? I'd a have a hard time arguing that point, yet, no other explanation was jumping out at me.

Later I toyed around with that myself. As I drove around I found the plants forced me to be more cautions. I had to drive slowly, especially at cross streets, my view was blocked by the plants. When I realized that I thought, wow this is dumb, how dangerous, but no, in fact it was safer, everyone slowed down. And even if there were accidents they'd be collisions at 10 mph or slower. This wasn't dumb, it was frigging brilliant. But still, how could it be? Tucson's rainfall is minimal compared to ours while their city is bursting with life, at least where I was. I decided they must be spending huge amounts of money on irrigation systems and water bills. My train of thought went to the AWSA, and taking water from the Gila, and that whole business. But no. There were no hoses, no sprinkler heads. I had been there for several days and never saw any water spraying anywhere, or running down the street, and no evidence of any drip systems or underground watering lines either.

Well, it turns out our Southwest neighbors over in Tucson are way ahead of us on this whole topic of passive rain water harvesting, and the results are just amazing, and everywhere on display. Written into the City's code is the requirement for curb cuts, runoff diversion and catchment. Tucson is totally on top of this. Every road, every sidewalk, every new construction takes into account runoff, and every drop is put to beneficial use. There's no plumbing involved, no water bills, no massive evaporation loss, no complex system of drains to carry off the occasional flood water or pipes to get clogged up and need maintenance. Tucson is a city that's chosen to become about as one with the Earth as one can get, right smack in the desert. And how do they do it? It's no secret. They've totally put it out there for anyone interested.

Here's a whole index of documents that talk about every aspect of what they're doing.

Here's a set of representative engineering designs if you prefer drawings.
http://www.greywateraction.org/sites/de ... Detail.pdf

Here's The City of Tucson Arizona Rainwater Harvesting Manual.

And if that's not enough there's piles of other references on the net. And if that's not enough, hop in the car and just take a drive over there. But either way, imagine what Silver City would be like if we followed their example. It's not expensive, it's just smart. We could totally do this. Certainly if they can do it, we can do it. And thanks Ella. Thanks for bringing this conversation to our table. We may not have our water use figured out yet, but we are a City of people who will always love you. - kb

 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:22 pm 
Great links, Kevin. Thanks!

 Author: jef
PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2014 12:15 pm 
This is the first summer of my curb cut installed by Stream Dynamics. My neighborhood has had only two really good drenching rains this season, but the difference is already visible. A chitalpa tree that I thought might die is covered in flowers, and the number of bees visiting is easily 2-4 times more than last summer at this time, among many other changes. Why we allow the rain to further damage streets and erode natural water ways (that we'll eventually have to pay to repair) when this other option is possible is nuts. I loved Kevin's description of what Tucson is doing - and they've also figured out how to mute night-time public lighting so that it's safe on the road, but dark enough to see the stars. We definitely could learn a thing or two, eh?

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