Chelsea Green Publishing

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Harvesting Rainwater: Parking Lot to Parking Orchard

Dan DorseyPeople get comfortable with, and inspired by, new ideas (such as water harvesting) when they experience working examples first hand. Your home site can present such an opportunity. Though a truly public site can maximize potential exposure, while sustaining privacy for yourself. Help turn a problem into a solution, and the idea can really take off. Water harvester Dan Dorsey saw such an opportunity in the Tucson, Arizona Community Food Bank’s sun-baked asphalt parking lot in the 1990s. The lot was bleak, impervious, and contributed to significant flooding problems downslope when the rains came and all the stormwater rapidly ran off. Dan drew up a plan, presented it to the director, and got the go ahead. A bunyip water level and spray paint was used to mark contour lines in the parking lot and around the building. Appropriate locations for infiltration basins were marked where they fit with contour lines, parking spaces and vehicular access. Heavy equipment precisely cut and removed the asphalt where marked, and dirt was excavated to form the basins. Then fifty 15-gallon (56-liter) sized low-water-use, food-producing mesquite trees were planted. Asphalt speed humps were installed to divert more runoff into the basins and slow parking lot traffic. After one year, the trees could survive entirely on runoff from the building and remaining asphalt (see photo). After three years some trees were 20 feet (6 m) tall. This greatly decreased the energy bills for cooling the building, and decreased stormwater flooding the street. The wavy shapes and cool green of the trees softened the sterile lines of the office building and created a pleasant and welcome place for people to park, work, and visit. Surrounded by an urban forest, people’s mood and demeanor seemed to relax. Seven years later the Food Bank moved to a larger facility. The property was left vacant for years, yet the trees continued to grow, thrive, and inspire. Photo: Shade trees planted in a basin cut on contour in a once-solid asphalt parking lot. The speed hump (at the far end of the basin) acts as a diversion berm directing additional runoff into the basin. Photo taken three years after trees planted. Note: Mulch would further enhance the water infiltration and storage capacity of the basin. Photo credit: Dan Dorsey

Brad Lancaster is a dynamic teacher, consultant, and designer of regenerative systems. He is the author of the award-winning, best-selling books Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, the information-packed website, and the Drops in a Bucket Blog. He lives his talk on an oasis-like eighth of an acre in downtown Tucson, Arizona, by harvesting over 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year where just 12 inches per year falls from the sky.

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Wins 2013 Literary Awards

This year’s release of the updated, expanded Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 2nd Edition has won two literary awards: * Best Indie Books of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews in the Nonfiction category * 2013 USA Best Book Award in the General Home category More awards could be on the horizon in 2014. […] Read More..

American Oasis: A Multimedia Work on the Story of Water in Tucson, featuring Brad Lancaster

“It never snows in Tucson. It doesn’t even rain much – about 11 inches a year – so precipitation of any kind makes Tucsonans a little giddy. But the light in [Brad] Lancaster’s eyes is different. He sees water falling from the sky as the key to his city’s future; nothing less than its salvation. […] Read More..

Finally released: the long-awaited, expanded, and revised second edition of Volume 1 of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond!

Turn water scarcity into water abundance, while maximizing the power of the sun and more! This best-selling, award-winning guide shows you how to conceptualize, design, and implement life-enhancing water-, sun-, wind-, and shade-harvesting systems for your home, landscape, and community. The book enables you to assess your on-site resources, gives you a diverse array of […] Read More..

Watershed Maps Are Community Maps

by Brad Lancaster © 2011 A watershed is “that area of land, a bounded hydrological system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.” — John Wesley Powell Political boundaries are arbitrary. Watershed boundaries […] Read More..

Images of Contemporary Water-Harvesting Art

by Brad Lancaster © 2011 Show the flow. Cycle it. Celebrate it. Know it. And as you do, show others the way. The three images below are installations that I feel show and celebrate the flow. Their beauty lures me in, and invites me to look deeper. See more images in the Contemporary Water-Harvesting […] Read More..