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Rainwater Harvesting in the Desert

Written by Cricket

In case you didn’t know, Phoenix is in the Sonoran desert. Rainfall averages about 8.04 inches per year. (Just for comparison, Seattle, who ranks 44th in average rainfall among major US cities, gets an average of 38 inches per year.) Eight inches isn’t a lot, but it definitely makes a show of it, often accompanied by flash flooding due to the inability of our dense clay silt absorb water quickly. This also means that much of the water that does fall on your property probably doesn’t stay there, but flows down the street and into the sewer. It doesn’t have to be that way though — you can harvest that water either by contouring your landscape to allow it to soak into the ground, or by collecting it in tanks for future use.

This is where my friends Dan and Tara Moncrief come into the story.  I’m so very pleased to introduce you to them and their company, Living Water Industries. Read on to find out more about them and what they do.

Dan and Tara, Rainwater

Tell us about yourselves. Why did you get into rainwater harvesting?

We started Living Water Industries in 2013 after initially researching water storage and containment on our property for emergency use. After considerable prayer, we received the vision of starting a business that could not only help people to store water, but to capture God’s water- the rain. We have developed systems that utilize roof runoff through seamless gutters and conveyance into heavy duty food grade polyurethane tanks that range from 170 gallons- 3000 gallons. Though Arizona has infrequent rainy seasons, the amount of rain per storm can be extremely substantial. We have been trained and certified though ARCSA (American Rainwater Catchment Association) to accurately assess the catchment area and the rainwater storage potential for any size roof or barn structure.

How much rainwater do you harvest on your property?

On our property, we currently harvest close to 2600 gallons off of our home which is 2200 sq ft, 1500 gallons off of our barn and 150 gallons off of our chicken coop. We also have 3500 gallons in potable water storage, and 4000 gallons in reserve rainwater storage tanks. The reserve tanks (totes) are necessary to utilize when our tanks are full and rain is in the forecast. We use a portable pump to transfer water from our catchment tanks to free up space for the coming rain. We plan to build additional gardens near the storage tank areas which are dispersed throughout our property.

How do you use it?

We utilize our rain water for all of our landscaping and gardens. The citrus, fruit trees and bushes and edible gardens flourish much better with rain water than city water which contains chlorine and other chemicals that destroy necessary organic soil elements. We also utilize the rain water for our chickens and Emus.

With our Berkey gravity filtration system, we also drink it on occasion!

*Note: If you would like to try to make your own filter at a fraction of the cost, here are directions for making your own berkey-based filter with 5 gallon buckets.

What are the laws for harvesting rainwater in Arizona?

Currently there are no laws in Arizona against rain water catchment or usage. In some States such as Colorado, Wyoming, and Oregon, rain water catchment is considered illegal. In AZ, we are free to capture the rain as we desire. The only limitations that we frequently have to deal with come from homeowner associations that may limit tanks that are in view and, at times, gutter placement.

What is the reason most people install rainwater catchment systems?

Most people have a desire to install rain water catchment systems primarily for garden water and for environment reasons. Our clients range from prepper types who desire water storage for emergency use, to organic food-growers who desire a more natural water source for their edibles. We have such a vast and amazing client base that extends from Prescott to Buckeye and we operate almost exclusively on word of mouth. God has certainly blessed us with our clients!

What is the biggest system you have installed?

The largest system that we have installed to date was for a client in Troon (north Scottsdale). The system was 7000 gallons of catchment off a 6000sft roof and was installed as an underground tank system. We installed the system on a pump system that is designed to utilize the rain water for all of the home’s irrigation needs, switching over to the city source only when the tank system is empty. The system is over 2 years old and has saved the client a large amount of money in Scottsdale water fees.

large catchment system

Can you tell me what the biggest concerns people have about collecting rainwater? Is there a wrong way to do it?

Most of our clients who have a desire to begin a rain catchment system seem to have more excitement than concern. However, some concerns are cost of systems, size of tanks, and ability to utilize the water fully. We work with each client to address individual concerns which typically includes long term relationships that foster better use and development of systems for the future. For example, one long term client in Tempe started with a 1000 gallon rain water tank with which she gravity watered her existing plants. A few months later we built an enclosed garden that she watered with her rain water.

Currently, we are installing a pump system from her tank that will feed her garden and many of her edible trees, including her Moringa trees, avocado trees and several citrus trees.

How long can you store rainwater? Does it need filtered?

Rain water can be stored in our tanks for up to a year or longer, as they are enclosed and coated to prevent excess algae growth and mosquito breeding. We do recommend that our clients wash out their tanks when the tank water is at its lowest, approximately once a year. A power sprayer or high pressure hose works well. There is no need to filter rainwater for irrigation usage unless it is being put through a complex irrigation system in which case some filtration may be required to prevent blockage of the irrigation lines. We always set up the spigot/irrigation output several inches higher that the tank bottom so that sediment which naturally settles at the bottom is not being pulled into the pump system. For our clients who capture for emergency storage, we do make recommendations for indoor gravity filtration devises that adequately filters the rain water for safe drinking.

low profile tank

Is there any reason someone shouldn’t harvest?

In our opinion, anyone who desires to harvest rain should do it, whether it is by utilizing 50 gallon drums, or investing in a long-term, large scale system. Plants love the rain and will flourish even with a few extra supplements of rain water. In the case of open barrel catchment systems, we recommend frequent emptying or covering to prevent mosquito breeding.

For roofs that have large amounts of debris from leaves, dirt or other excessive pollutants, we install gutter guards as well as a “first-flush-system”. This system essentially collects the first 50+ gallons of runoff into a separate piping area that can be later emptied and cleaned out.

How do you determine the amount of rain that a property can collect?

We use a simple formula to determine the catchment capability of an area. We base our recommendations on not only the potential for catchment, but also on the client’s needs. We install systems strictly for irrigation purposes and not for indoor or potable use.

What about directing water to plantings rather than tanks?

We do install drainage systems to carry water away from your foundation. It can then be directed into planting areas to decrease the need for irrigation.

Do you install gray water systems?

As of now, we do not install grey water systems, but we are very interested in incorporating that into the future of our business.

What is the most important thing you want people to know about what you do?

The most important thing that we would like for the community to know about Living Water Industries is that we love God, believe that each client is special and that each system that we install is for the improvement of our society, our land and the future – foreseen and unforeseen.

 

To contact Dan and Tara for consultations and estimates, please visit their website, Living Water Industries. They will be happy to help you start harvesting the rain too.

About the author

Cricket

Welcome to my blog! I’m Cricket (yes, my parents named me that!) and I’m a natural homesteader. Growing up in rural Idaho with a garden, a horse, and lots of canned food, I like to bring those sensibilities to my suburban home in Phoenix, Arizona. Add a little dose of cottage garden flavor and permaculture tendencies, and you’ll see why GardenVariety.Life is a reflection of everything I do.

I truly enjoy sharing the skills that promote a meaningful and practical connection to our gardens and environment. Because so many residents of the metro phoenix area are transplants, I find that the area’s unique desert climate is often misunderstood and underestimated in terms of what is possible. That’s where the fun begins. Arizona is a burgeoning permaculture haven with homesteading written all over it, and there is nothing I enjoy more than encouraging others to jump in and give it a try.

1 Comment

  • Hello Cricket
    Here is Rainwater Harvesting website.The main purpose is teach about rainwater harvesting and other water related matter so that we can have a sustainable water supply for generation to come.This website is full of information about rainwater harvesting fundamentals, future events and programs, and locations.

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