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.

blurry cell phone picture of Brad Lancaster pouring water

blurry cell phone picture of Brad Lancaster pouring water on model house

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!

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§ 7 Responses to Brad Lancaster Water Harvesting Talk

  • alisray says:

    I confess, as an easterner, I was unfamiliar with Lancaster until I heard an NPR story this morning. Base on that and your blog posts, I hope to catch him on tour.

    I have a fair amount on my blog about rainwater harvesting, since we switched over from a well to a cistern about four months ago for all our water needs, including drinking water.

  • Rick F. says:

    I also heard the story on NPR this morning and found it interesting.. I can’t say I’ve heard of him either but do know about rainwater harvesting and I’m also a So-Cal resident living about a mile from the ocean.. I’ve got a large backyard and plan on doing something to catch the water coming off my large roof (estimated to be ~75000 gallons/yr if I recall).. However, I’m more interested in doing a tankless or underground installation — still looking into that..

  • Joe Linton says:

    Here’s a link to the NPR story that aired today featuring Brad Lancaster: Listen and enjoy!

  • rootsinthecity says:

    I just wrote about the evening myself and then found your much more detailed review here– I think I saw you get that picture and was thinking “that guy must be a blogger.”

    It was an amazingly inspiring presentation, no? definitely worth some time on the rapid.

  • […] LA Creek Freak was also there, and wrote a more detailed review here. […]

  • Elizabeth S says:

    After experiencing Phase III watering restrictions (1x per wk;max 4 hrs) in S. Florida, I believe the future of our entire wtr supply can be seen just a few hours north of us. Fl, AL & GA have had 10-yr wtr-rights battle;the Atlanta/Lake Lanier area squandered its water – resulting in Phase IV (no landscape irrigation), jeapordizing even municipal hydrant levels. I believe we need some mental re-tooling,overcoming some mental hurdles:(1) baronial-style estates,or turf-builder ads are not gospel;(2)the water you or I use,or dump, comes from me or you:we are all in this together!; the “wet”season of 4-5 months is the only wtr supply for the “dry” season when pop. here swells five-fold. Yes, growing-up & not acting like adolescents (even when retired w/multiple residences) is possible.We have a hand on the spigot for present and future generations – let’s think “smarter” vs. spending “harder” for water.

  • ed spargo says:

    dear brad im in love w/you! i didnt know anybody cared about rain. im serving a life sentence for being borne, so ive got plenty of time to think. pls goto my site. lookat living local. itll be a beautiful rltnshp. XXXXXX ed

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