Water conservation

Use the rain to save the desert


TUCSON (KVOA) – Last month, the Bureau of Reclamation declared the Colorado River’s first shortage in CAP water deliveries, with the first reductions in water use coming into effect in January. With further water shortages looming, this is forcing desert dwellers to turn to other sources of water supply.

Rainwater harvesting is not a new concept, but local governments, utilities and individuals are increasingly turning to rain to save the desert.

“We have nine feet, four and a quarter inches in the tank right now. And it’s 216 gallons per inch for those nine feet,” said retired biologist Jay Cole. Cole uses a long wooden stick to measure the amount of water in his 26,000 gallon underground cistern. Cole and his wife, Carol Townsend, built their retirement home in the Tucson Mountains 18 years ago. They incorporated a rainwater harvesting system into the plans. They also dug a well, not knowing how their rainwater harvesting experience would go. “And it turned out that the rainwater system was the best thing we could do because it’s of such a high quality,” Cole said, “And it provides all the water that we we need indoor water for all of our domestic uses and it maintains our pool and in a good year we can maintain some vegetable gardens. ”They use well water for their outdoor plants.

Rainwater is captured on the metal roof and transported to the cistern. Water was plentiful this summer with a record monsoon. “The reservoir overflowed this year, we had 11.4 inches of rain here. The reservoir was about 2 feet by 10 feet and in July it was overflowing,” Cole said. In the 18 years they’ve lived in their western home, they’ve said last year’s monsoon was the worst. “We changed our normal water intake from about 90 gallons per day for two people in the house, 45 per person, which is our annual average, to just 74 gallons of water per day, by simply changing our behavior. inside the house, ”Cole says.

David Rabb has a similar sized aboveground system. “We drink it, we irrigate with it, we flush the toilet with it, that’s all,” Rabb said. He just installed his rainwater harvesting system in December, he said he hadn’t used city water since. “Our water heater is expected to last longer, our coffee maker should last longer, all of our appliances should last longer because they will not be corroded like with normal Tucson water,” he said. declared.

Rabb said his reservoir also filled up quickly with the onset of the monsoon. “We have the roof, it’s just a little under 5,000 square feet, you get a little over 0.6 gallons of roof per inch of rain, so an inch of rain puts about 3,000 gallons in here,” he said. Rabb.

Tucson Water is offering rebates of up to $ 2,000 for the installation of rainwater harvesting systems. “Rainwater and stormwater are a huge untapped water resource for our community,” said James MacAdam, Superintendent of Public Information and Conservation at Tucson Water. The utility’s conservation report found that the rebate program saved more than 52 million gallons of water from 2018 to 2019. To qualify for the rebate, residents must take a water harvesting course rain. Rainwater harvesting is divided into two categories, active and passive. “If you don’t immediately have the money to invest in an active system, a passive system is like digging a shallow depression, finding out where the low points are on your property, and deliberately slowing the water down there. said Parker Filer, assistant horticultural officer with the Pima County Cooperative Extension.

Water conservation from both Rabb and Cole to install rainwater harvesting systems. “For me, it’s about the satisfaction of doing the right thing,” Rabb said. Cole said he and his wife approached the project as an experiment. “The beauty of it all is that we collect all the water we need here on our roof, no more footprint than the roof of the house and we don’t use electricity to collect 26,000 gallons. C ‘it’s just gravity feed from the roof to the cistern,’ he said.

Once the rainwater has been collected, it passes through filters. Rabb and Cole both use charcoal and UV light.
The Coles have had their water quality tested and the results are impressive. The EPA allows 2 nanograms of mercury per liter, but the lab could not detect any mercury in Cole’s water. They also had extremely low levels of arsenic and lead.

Rabb and Cole rave about the quality of their water. “Did I tell you how good the water is? The water tastes amazing,” Rabb said. “The quality of the water is exceptional however. By the time we have our drinking water ready for use, we only have 4 parts per million dissolved solids in the water, it can hardly be purer than that. and it tastes wonderful, ”Cole said.

If you would like to learn more about the Tucson Water Rainwater Harvesting Discount, click here. You can register for rainwater harvesting courses here.


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