Plant the Water

Brad Lancaster shakes his booty across the stage when he addresses his audience and asks them to shift their perspective regarding water availability.  Brad’s cheerful approach to water conservation and thoughtful observations about how the land greets the water, have helped to create a paradigm shift about water resources in the desert southwest.

Brad - Water Harvesting Guru
Brad – Water Harvesting Guru

A native of Tuscon, Arizona, Brad has watched his growing city drain the local watershed, making the city and the land ever more thirsty.  But rather than wringing his hands and speaking of the coming doom, Brad cheers us to consider that water is abundant.  Abundant, if we re-think our relationship with water.  Yes conserve – refrain from those long showers, growing those lush green lawns and using those water-hogging appliances.  But to Brad and his converts, the water that falls from the sky is in truth more than enough to thrive, even in places like Tuscon, where the average rainfall is only 10 inches a year.  He implores us to stop building roads, landscapes and houses that shed the incoming water.  Instead he says lets CAPTURE the rain and plant the water! Create earth works like berms and sponges, which help the water percolate down into the earth and encourage the water to stay a while.  Water kept in the soil longer, helps support the plants, which in turn provide shade, food for wildlife, and beauty for the soul.  Water kept in the soil can help to recharge aquifers that feed springs and rivers. Earth works are inexpensive to build and highly effective. The surface area of the earth that can be employed to capture rain is limitless. You can build surfaces with permeable materials, and shape landscapes to cup and help the water linger.  Once the land has been reshaped and amended to capture water, then Brad suggests we build cisterns to capture the runoff from our houses, buildings and schools.  Brad’s ideas are explained in more detail at his super friendly website,, and his books V1and V2 called Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond.

At the Edge of Lake Superior
At the Edge of Lake Superior

I write this post sitting at the edge of one of the greatest fresh waters of the world, Lake Superior.  The waves crash against the shore and the horizon is filled only with water, no land in site.  Yet even here, there are murmurs of water decline.  According to an article in National Geographic, even the water levels in the Great Lakes have been declining due to climate change;  Warming Lakes: Climate Change and Variability Drive Low Water Levels on the Great Lakes. 

Water abundance or water scarcity?  It is perhaps just a matter of perspective, a matter of how we use or abuse this precious resource.




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