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Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Wins 2013 Literary Awards

Monday, December 16th, 2013

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. Get a copy here for yourself or as a gift now!

RWHDB V1E2 Kirkus Best Indie Books Best Book WINNER Small

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

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

"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.

"To understand why, you have to understand a little known fact about today's world: much of it is running out of fresh water.

"Seen from space, the earth may be hued the deep blue of the sea, a water planet, seven-tenths covered by oceans. But only three percent of the earth's water is freshwater, and most of that is locked up in glaciers of the ice caps. Less than one percent is usable freshwater.

"From the American Southwest to the Middle East and onwards to China, the human race is drawing down the freshwater supply far faster than nature can replenish it."

So begins the online text of American Oasis, a new multimedia work focused on the story of water in Tucson, including the work of Brad Lancaster and other locals who are working to revive and build on the the traditions and heritage of water-harvesting in the American Southwest.

Produced by Kogainon Films in collaboration with the International Traditional Knowledge Institute/UNESCO (ITKI), the Tucson Desert Oasis Initiative at the University of Arizona, the Heritage Channel, and the Maria Nobrega Foundation.

For more information, visit Kogainon's American Oasis page.

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

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

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 strategies to maximize their potential, and empowers you with guiding principles to create an integrated, multi-functional plan specific to your site and needs.

Clearly written with more than 280 illustrations, this new edition helps transform your site from a consumer of resources to a thriving generator of resources; reduce your cost of living; endow you with skills of self-reliance; and create community-building, living, air-conditioning vegetation that grows beauty, food, carbon-sequestration, flood-control, and wildlife habitat. Stories of people who are successfully welcoming rain, sun, wind, and shade into their life and landscape will invite you to do the same!

Author bio:
Brad Lancaster is a dynamic teacher, consultant, and designer of permaculture and regenerative systems. He teaches around the world. While closer to home he has worked with his city and other municipalities to legalize, incentivize, and provide guidance on rainwater-, greywater-, stormwater- and other local resource-harvesting systems and policy.

Brad lives his talk on an oasis-like, food-abundant demonstration site he created with his brother and neighbors in downtown Tucson, Arizona. On this eighth of an acre (0.05 ha) and surrounding public right-of-way, they harvest 100,000 gallons (378,000 liters) of rainwater a year where less than 12 inches (300 mm) fall from the sky. In addition, the site’s sun-, wind-, and shade-harvesting systems power Brad’s home, his brother’s, and help power those of their neighbors.


“This book’s simple techniques (and the principles behind them) can help you save bunches of money, and make the landscape around you more productive and beautiful, with less work and upkeep than you can imagine.”

- Kevin Dahl, former Executive Director of Native Seeds/SEARCH and author of Native Harvest: Gardening with Authentic Southwestern Crops

“This wonderful book overflows with effective ways to beneficially cycle and enhance local water supplies, while maximizing free power from the sun.”

- Sandra Postel, founding director, Global Water Policy Project; Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society

“This is an important book about using rainfall as the primary driver in creating and restoring landscapes for agriculture and communities. It is ecological design at its best.”

- John Todd, Ph.D., Research Professor and Distinguished Lecturer; President, Ocean Arks International

“What a wonderful, enthusiastic book. Brad Lancaster lives what he preaches—a water-careful lifestyle that is all about more life.”

- Ben Haggard, author, regenerative systems practitioner and teacher

For more info on the book, Brad's work, and inspiring videos see www.HarvestingRainwater.com

Watershed Maps Are Community Maps

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

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 are real.

What watershed, what naturally bounded community, do you live within?
Have you walked, run, biked, danced, kayaked it in a big rain?
Have you watched the water flow, its volume, its quality, its source, and its destination?

I recommend you do. You will better know the Place you live within. You will better know the community to which you are connected, and with which you could connect better still.

Below are examples of how some communities are encouraging the strengthening of this connection.

Excellent watershed maps are available for Oakland and Berkeley, CA, showing current and historic boundaries and conditions.

The even more-elaborate Mannahatta project shows us what Manhattan looked like in its natural state (in 1609) before the city was built.

Watershed Management Group, with TerraSystems Southwest, has made a some great Tucson Basin Watershed Maps.

You can use these resources to make signs that highlight your neighborhood’s or community’s watershed(s). Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the sign we made for my Dunbar/Spring neighborhood and its watersheds (and click on the link below it to download as a jpeg).

Santa Cruz County, in California, is one municipality that places watershed signs where roads cross over watershed boundaries/ridgelines.

These efforts help show the flow, instead of obscuring it within drain pipes and other hidden infrastructure, so we can better celebrate the flow, and enhance it and the watershed by turning draining watersheds into harvesting-water catchments.

For more on how we can do this on our own sites and within our own neighborhoods, read Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

For images of examples you can also check out my Water Harvesting Image Galleries.

Also check out Brock Dolman’s excellent Basins of Relations booklet, and while you're at it check out his wonderful Bioneers presentation. It is on YouTube in three parts: Part one, Part two, and Part three.

This 17" x 16" all-weather reflective aluminum sign was made for $42 at SignAge in Tucson. We provided the pdf image, they made the sign, and we'll post it on the Dunbar/Spring community bulletin board on the southeast corner of 9th Ave and University Blvd.

Click to download the JPEG of this Dunbar/Spring Washes and Watersheds sign.

For more of Brad's blog posts, visit his Drops in a Bucket blog.

Images of Contemporary Water-Harvesting Art

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

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 Art gallery, part of my website’s larger Water-Harvesting Image Gallery.

And for more how-to information see Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Images of Ancient Water-Harvesting Art

Monday, September 5th, 2011

by Brad Lancaster © 2011

There is a tradition of harvesting rainwater in all human-inhabited drylands of the world where it rains (and in a great many wet areas that also experience dry seasons). I’ve been very lucky to have been able to travel to, and learn from, some of them.

Below are three images. One from Israel. One from Jordan. One from India. If you are traveling to any of these countries, I highly recommend you seek these sites out. They are all open to the public, and you can find them via the information I give in the captions of these and many more images in the Ancient Water Harvesting Art image gallery within my Water-Harvesting Images Gallery.

[To see the remaining images and read the rest of this short & sweet post (and any others!), I invite you to visit my Drops In a Bucket Blog.]

Human-Empowered, Enlightened, and Energized Transport

Monday, August 1st, 2011

by Brad Lancaster © 2011

Brad transporting plants

Years ago at a red light I looked into the car beside me and saw the frowning driver’s hair blowing into the back seat as though she were leaning into a mighty storm. But her windows were up. The gale was coming from her air conditioner — on a beautiful day when an open window could just as easily cool and refresh. Then I coughed, and looked back at her tail pipe spewing out toxic exhaust. I was on a bicycle, and loving the day, except for the coughing. And that’s when the simple realization hit me.

Everything we do, every choice we make, has consequences. And no matter how seemingly simple, they can be profound. We can choose to be and live problems — or solutions.

I realized every time I drove (or mechanically cooled myself) I was directly poisoning air, water, soil, and myself. However, every time I rode my bike, my exhaust was never worse than a flatulent. When I drove my car, I fueled it with toxic gasoline from a distant corporation. When I rode my bike, I fueled me, often with a burrito made from locally grown tepary beans and cooked in my backyard solar oven. A burrito I would’ve eaten anyway now tasted even better.


From “Oil Addiction Has Never Been More Expensive…For Most of Us” © Sightline Institute; used with permission.

How I do live without owning a car?
I live in a central, mixed-use, pedestrian-scaled neighborhood, a few blocks away from major bus routes, where I can easily get the majority of my needs met within a 3- to 5-mile (1.8- to 3-km) radius. When working in town, I consciously select work that is closer to home to keep my typical in-town travel radius smaller and more easily bikeable, although I do venture much further out on occasion. And I started playing with the bicycling lifestyle long ago while I still lived with my folks in their “remote” suburban home 10 miles from my work. Plus I’m always advocating for more human-powered transport infrastructure and policy in my community and beyond.

Having sold my car, it is now far more convenient to ride a bike, walk, or take public transport than to arrange to borrow a vehicle. Convenience is key. And even when I’m feeling tired at the beginning of a ride, once I get going (and afterward) I am always glad I did.

I have an Xtracycle Free Radical Cargo Loader that extended my 20-year-old mountain bike so I can use it as a bike truck. I can pack 200 lbs (90 kg) on its back, carry people, other bikes, building materials, trees, groceries, and more. Before I had my Xtracycle I just used my mountain bike with bike bags, a big basket, and when needed, a bike trailer. Photos of the trailer, made from salvaged materials, can be seen farther down in this blog post.


Visit my Drops in a Bucket blog to read the full posting, view photos, and access a wide variety of great bicycle-related resources that I hope will inspire and equip you to get from point A to point B without all the X-Y-Z.

Roman- and Byzantine-era Cisterns of the Past Reviving Life in the Present

Friday, July 8th, 2011

All photos and text by Brad Lancaster, www.HarvestingRainwater.com © 2011

This is number six in a series of Drops in a Bucket Blog posts on Brad Lancaster’s water wanderings in the Middle East; this trip led in part to Volume 1 of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond being translated into Arabic, and Brad’s participation in the upcoming International Permaculture Convergence in Jordan this September. NOTE: If traveling to the Middle East, check out this blog series for dynamic projects and sites to check out.

In northern Jordan during the summer of 2009, I was on a mission to document a modern-day Roman-era cistern resurgence. I met with Engineer and Permaculture Project Manager Sameeh Al-Nuimat at the Care International office outside Amman. He was great. He has rural hardworking roots, loves native plants and traditional ways, is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about whole-system design, and decided we’d begin the day by having an Arabic breakfast with everyone in the office. We all grouped around a very small, low table piled high with hummus, pita, olives, falafel etc, and ate with our hands. What a wonderful way to bring everyone together as the day begins!

The Village of Rainwater Tea
We then made for the water. In the village of Bayudah Al Shrquia there is a long tradition of rainwater harvesting. Roman- and Byzantine-era cisterns abound in both ruin and reuse, with the limestone hills peppered with underground tanks dug into the rock. Many of these tanks have been in continual use since their creation over a thousand years ago, while others have been newly refurbished, funded in part by revolving community loan funds often facilitated by Care International. The cisterns are olla-shaped, and often built below a limestone catchment. A depressed sediment trap just in front of the cistern’s water entrance is usually the only filtration. A boulder with a trap door is put atop the cistern opening so no one falls in.

Steel door atop ancient cistern access portalTo read on and see more photos, follow this link to my Drops In A Bucket Blog on my website. You'll be able to follow me down into an underground cistern, learn more about ancient water-harvesting systems, and drink a virtual glass of mint rainwater tea with me….

Water Wise Women of Jordan

Monday, September 13th, 2010

by Brad Lancaster, www.HarvestingRainwater.com, © 2010

Number 5 in a series of Drops in a Bucket blog posts on Brad Lancaster’s and David Eisenberg’s U.S. State Department-sponsored adventures and gleanings in the Middle East Northern Jordan, April 2009

Jordan Valley, Jordan, 2009

My guides Mohammed Ayesh of NCARE and Iqbal of JOHUD took me to an oasis.

The village we were in was strewn with garbage, and the soil was bare and severely eroded. Houses were made from concrete brick and whatever materials could be scavenged. Then we saw the oasis: an island of green bursting from the yard’s pallet fence.

A living oasis of green amidst bare soil
Learn about Basma, the creator and caretaker of this oasis, and the story of how it came to be here, on my home blog, Drops in a Bucket.

Revolving Community Loans for “Water From Allah”

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

by Brad Lancaster, www.HarvestingRainwater.com, © 2010

Number 4 in a series of Drops in a Bucket blog posts on Brad Lancaster’s and David Eisenberg’s U.S. State Department-sponsored adventures and gleanings in the Middle East

Northern Jordan, April 2009

Throughout northern Jordan we visited dynamic villages that were enhancing their quality of life by recycling water and money as close to their sources as possible.

The money is recycled primarily via revolving community-loan funds. Here is how it works: a village collectively gathers a pot of money, a portion of which is lent out to its villagers to fund projects the village has deemed worthy. The most popular projects are those that recycle water with rainwater-harvesting cisterns and greywater-harvesting systems, while others used their loans to finance composting projects, organic gardens and orchards, and small livestock – all investments that increase local productivity along with the resiliency and sustainability of the village and its natural resources. A villager who receives a loan has two and a half years to pay it back, interest free. The money can then be lent out to yet another villager. The village’s productivity keeps improving with the investments, enabling the village to give itself more loans, continuing the upward spiral of recycled investments that stay in the community. Neither non-locally owned banks nor interest drain off the profits.

Ali Flahmohammad Khtatabh, the Imam of Whadneh, proudly showed me the 2,500 Jordanian dinars’ worth (currently equivalent to over US $3,500) of cisterns the village loan fund had financed at his home and the homes of his children. He was the first in his village to install cisterns, and as its spiritual leader, he made it clear that the harvest of rainwater was in alignment with both the teachings of the Koran and good sense. He was so happy with the cisterns that he kept building more.

To continue reading about Brad's observations on water-tank culture and current and potential greywater-harvesting strategies in the Middle East, along with an ahead-of-the-curve piece of pro-greywater legislation in Israel, and more, follow this link to Brad's Drops in a Bucket blog on his website.