Water Harvest Workshops and Projects

Water Harvesting Workshops

“Slow, Spread, Sink”—Ancient principles remind us to keep the water we get for free!

As most of us living here are aware, water is a scarce commodity in the southwest. But many of us are transplants from wetter climates, so we are not always conscious of how much of a strain we put on our groundwater resources. (About everyone in these parts gets all their water from groundwater wells; we do not import Colorado River water as folks further north do). Not only do we use this water to drink and bathe; we also use it to water our landscapes, and to flush our toilets.

The river also needs that same groundwater to maintain its riparian ecosystem. Without shallow groundwater to sustain them, we’d lose our rare cottonwood-willow gallery forest entirely, and surface flow would quickly disappear into the sand. Our river would look like the dry wash it is through most of Pima County.

To help keep our groundwater shallow so that it can support riparian habitat, FOSCR encourages our community to harvest rainwater and use it to establish native landscaping. Native plants not only thrive in our semi-arid climate without excessive irrigation; they also look great, and provide food and shelter for wildlife.

“Water harvesting” is the act of gathering the rain that falls on your property and putting it to good use. It can be as passive as allowing rain to collect in a shallow basin sculpted into the ground, or as active as gathering rain from your roof with gutters that lead to a cistern where water can be stored for later use.

Although people in the Santa Cruz watershed used the basic principles of water harvesting as long as 12,000 years ago, they are now being revisited and extended with new technologies so our modern society can better live within our water means.

FOSCR members have professional training in water harvesting techniques, so we can provide useful information for residents in our area. We support water harvesting for many reasons:

  • To reduce landscape watering (and therefore reduce groundwater pumping) by maximizing use of rainfall and emphasizing use of native plants
  • To reduce surface water pollution by encouraging falling water to stay on site rather than dissolving pollutants (e.g. on roads and driveways) and carrying them towards the river
  • To reduce “peak” flooding by detaining small flows so they don’t all pile up at once, which can cause catastrophic erosion
  • To reduce erosion on slopes and in arroyos by various earthworks techniques and use of built structures that not only slow food flows, but also encourage infiltration and enhance the growth of vegetation.

If you are interested in setting up a workshop, please contact us at friendsofsantacruzriver@gmail.com.

Other great resources regarding water harvesting principles and techniques include: