Brad Lancaster Water Harvesting Talk
September 17, 2008 § 7 Comments
Water harvesting guru Brad Lancaster delivered a smart, silly and inspiring presentation in Santa Monica last Monday. Creek Freak braved the Wilshire Rapid bus to bring you, our dear readers, this exclusive review.
He opened his talk with a clever and telling demonstration. Lancaster used a watering can to pour water on a small model house and yard made of impermeable metal. Water predictably drained off the roof and yard. He added two thimble-sized plastic cups (visible as two white spots in the above photo) representing cisterns to catch roof water. Some excess runoff diminished. He added kitchen sponges (visible as a light green line in the above photo) to represent the rainwater storage in earthworks. Using a clear measuring cup, he demonstrated that capturing water in the sponges, that is in earthworks in the ground, has ten times greater capacity than even the cisterns. This is a truth we learn from nature. Healthy river systems have approximately 15 times the amount of water underground as they do on the surface.
Lancaster then reviewed the degradation of his hometown Tucson’s degradation of the Santa Cruz River watershed, his 8 principles of rainwater harvesting, graywater basics, and then a phenomenal photo tour of rainwater harvesting features from streets to homes to orchards to kinetic sculptures. Especially dramatic is the changes to his own street, where Lancaster was able to make small curb cuts to water native mesquite trees in the public right-of-way. The before and after images go from moonscape to eden. Wow! I’ll try to get my hands on them and post here. Let’s do this in Los Angeles! Tomorrow!
Lancaster advocates the simple-elegant passive in-tune-with-nature water harvesting techniques that resonate most strongly with me. No pumps. No tanks, no filters (on graywater.) Keep things visible, clear, legible. Reveal stormwater. Slow it. Spread it. Soak it.
While Lancaster’s books are excellent and I highly recommend them, it’s even more fun to see him in person as you catch his enthusiasm. I had a great time seeing him (though some of his puns are bit silly including “a bun dance” for “abundance”), now I’m excited to go forth and harvest more of the rain! Fall is the most rewarding time for these projects; it’s the time to plant perennials and natives and you get to see the rain fall filling your work. Start small, but get started soon!