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Water Harvesting: A Happier Solution than Austerity

   Nate Downey and his book

Harvest the Rain is the book I have been waiting for: a detailed "how to" for people and communities wanting to take a major step in saving the world's water written by a passionate water conservation advocate. 

Maude Barlow, author of Blue Covenent and Senior Advisor on Water
to the President of the United Nations General Assembly

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Can there ever be "too much of a good thing"?  If so, then this weekend is certainly one of those times.  On Friday Charlie and I attended Nate Downey's lecture at Brookhaven College on Water Harvesting.  Then yesterday I attended "RETHINK COMMUNITY - Garland Texas" at the Hyatt here in Garland.  Both events were crammed with interesting and relevant content for anyone interested in improving the quality of their life and the lives of others in their community.

I've already raved about the RETHINK COMMUNITY event in Garland yesterday and now I'll  rave on about Nate's presentation on Water Harvesting.  Nate Downey is a permaculturist from Santa Fe.  His company, Permadesign is described in Nate's words as ". . .  a landscape-architecture firm for a new world. Wherever you are, we’ll help create comfortable outdoor environments packed with value. Nestled among luscious edible gardens or elegant low-maintenance landscapes, our projects usually start with “water harvesting” a critical step toward a sustainable future."   

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Back in the spring (before I dug up my front lawn and replaced it with a garden of edibles) I calculated that at least for my geograhical place on the planet here in Garland Texas we have enough annual rainfall to grow just about anything.  Look at the graph below for our annual rainfall here in Garland and consider a 1000 square foot roof surface of an average-sized home yields 650 gallons of water from a 1 inch rainfall.  Thus, with adequate storage, every home in Garland could harvest approximately 26,000 gallons of water each year--more than enough water to support a garden to feed a family of four.

I find it somewhat sad that many people are so quick to embrace austerity as a solution and install rocks and cactus--when in many cases it is not necessary. The problem is not that we don't have enough water.  The problem is that we don't harvest and store it for later use when we do need it.  Instead, we let it run off, often eroding valuable topsoil.  I'm reminded of that famous dialogue from Auntie Mame:  "Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."  We need to manage our resources more sensibly--and to make better use of resources we have in abundance (such as solar energy).


Annnual Rainfall in Garland Texas

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NOTE:  The 12 design principles of permaculture are part of the guiding principles the planning committee for the Garland Urban Agricultural Center and Community Garden are dedicated to observing.

  1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time. [Source for summary of principles: Wiki]

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 The availability of water is central to the health of any economy. In fact, water is central to the life of all the citizens in the community. This is a fact that leaders of cities going back as far as Aristotle recognized.  Aristotle admonished city leaders to not rely on the countryside for their water but to build cisterns within the city.  Furthermore, water, like love of place, can bring communities together.

Why Harvest Rain?

It's free.
Almost chemical-free and plants love it
Increases production --It's true.  Plant grow much faster and better with rain water than with water from the tap.  I've observed it myself in my own garden.

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Books recommended by Nate  

Localization - a global manifesto  Colin Hines - Localization is a manifesto to unite all those who recognize the importance of cultural, social and ecological diversity for our future - and who do not aspire to a monolithic global consumer culture. The author challenges the claims that we have to be 'internationally competitive' to survive and describing the destructive consequences of globalization. This book is unique in going beyond simply criticizing free trade and globalization trends. It details self-reinforcing policies to create local self-sufficiency and shows clearly that there is an alternative to globalization - to protect the local, globally.

Blue Economy --10 years, 100 innovationa, 100 million jobs -- Gunter Pauli
Dr. Gunter Pauli is challenging the green movement he has been so much a part of to do better, to do more. He is the entrepreneur who launched Ecover; those products are probably in many of your homes. He built the largest ecologically-sound factory in the world. His participation in the Club of Rome and the founding of Zero Emissions Research Institute (ZERI) has made an immense contribution to sustainability both in terms of research, public awareness and articulating a visionary direction. He has dedicated himself to teaching and the hands-on implementation of projects that have brought healthy environments, good nutrition, health care and jobs in sustainable commerce to a myriad of places in the world.

Growing a Business - Paul Hawken
Nearly everyone harbors a secret dream of starting or owning a business. In fact, 1,000,000 businesses start in the United States every year. Many of them fail, but enough succeed so that small businesses are now adding millions of jobs to the economy at the same time that the Fortune 500 companies are actually losing jobs. 
Paul Hawken -- entrepreneur and best-selling author -- wrote Growing a Business for those who set out to make their dream a reality. He knows what he's talking about; he is his own best example of success. In the early 1970s, while he was still in his twenties, he founded Erewhon, the largest distributor of natural foods. More recently, he founded and still runs Smith & Hawken, the premier mail-order garden tools.  According to Hawken, a successful business is one that is an expression of an individual person.

Investing with Your Values:  Making Money and Making a Difference - Hal Bril and others
Investing With Your Values presents compelling evidence that values-inclusive investors can actually outperform the market and be a force for social change. The book's central concept of Natural Investing is a visionary practice that enables people across the entire philosophic and economic spectrum to identify their values and bring them into the financial arena.

 Thirst--Water and Power in the Ancient World - Steven Mithen
Water is an endangered resource, imperiled by population growth, mega-urbanization, and climate change. Scientists project that by 2050, freshwater shortages will affect 75 percent of the global population. Steven Mithen puts our current crisis in historical context by exploring 10,000 years of humankind’s management of water.  He suggests that we follow one of the most unheeded pieces of advice to come down from ancient times. In the words of Li Bing, whose waterworks have irrigated the Sichuan Basin since 256 bc, “Work with nature, not against it.”

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COMING UP SOON!

2013 ARCSA ANNUAL CONFERENCE :

Rainwater - The "Alternate" Water Source
click here for details!

Austin Texas November 4-8

The American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was founded in 1994 to promote rainwater catchment systems in the United States. Their memberships consist of professionals working in city, state, and federal government, academia, manufacturers and suppliers of rainwater harvesting equipment, consultants, and other interested individuals. Membership is not limited to the United States, and they encourage all rainwater harvesting practitioners and enthusiasts to join our organization

The American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association's mission is to promote sustainable rainwater harvesting practices to help solve potable, non-potable, stormwater and energy challenges throughout the world.

Sunday, October 27, 2013