By Linda Hunter, Executive Director
Despite the brief respite of rain that fell on the Bay Area this last week, California is still really dry, and finally people are beginning to pay attention to the principles that The Watershed Project has been espousing through our Greening Urban Watershed Program. Low Impact Design is the basic tenant of our program, and it imitates nature by allowing rainwater to go where it wants to go— seep into the ground, reach the roots of plants, or flow to a nearby creek.
That’s why I was delighted to go to hear one of my favorite rainwater harvesting gurus, Brad Lancaster speak at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park last Monday. It was a sold out crowd, which isn’t surprising because Brad’s enthusiasm for rainwater harvesting is infectious. I, along with everyone else in the water wonk choir, consider Brad to be a water reaping master, because he’s miraculously transformed where he lives in the Sonora Desert to an incredibly productive place to harvest rain and reuse greywater.
“Why do we call it wastewater? That’s crazy talk!” Brad earnestly asks. “Water is a resource! Not something to be thrown away!”
This sentiment galvanized Brad to “empower (his) community (members) to make positive changes in their own lives and begin to transform (their) households and neighborhoods from being consumers of resources to generators— and even regenerators— of resources.” Brad’s resource regeneration system encourages one to harvest and reuse water and reuse yard waste, even human waste to create a closed system where nothing goes to waste— pun most definitely intended here. Simple behavioral changes like, flushing your toilet with a bucket of water harvested from your shower to installing greywater systems that target a specific tree in your yard, can spread and sink rainwater and benefit the tiny bit of your watershed that you are trying to nurture. All great ideas that I had not considered for my 100 year old Victorian home and tiny yard in San Francisco with its ancient pipes that whisk the water from the kitchen and bathroom sinks and flow into underground pipes that were installed in 1897 to ensure my house was not “bothered” by that darn rain!
Besides offering some easy steps to begin your project through thoughtful observation the part of Brad’s presentation that resonated with me the most was the advocacy that resulted in legislation requiring residential greywater stub outs in new houses built in Tucson. Brad’s activism has also helped create an ordinance mandating that commercial developments provide at least 50% of their irrigation needs with harvested rainwater. This is truly forward thinking and something that we all, renters and homeowners alike, can get behind. And since politicians respond to disasters by taking action, now is the time to demand that they take a stand on implementing low impact design strategies to ensure that we survive this drought and to create resilient watersheds for our future.
Photo and Illustration Credits: Brad Lancaster