Category Archives: Conserve

Seasonal Notes – Spring into Resilience

Water resilience rebates, free classes, and hands-on training

It still feels like Spring in mid-May, with snow dusting the tallest of the Sandia mountains—a perfect time to develop more resilience in using water.  Affordable or free materials and diverse learning opportunities make it even more possible to conserve and re-use.

If you really want to get your feet wet, Catlow Shipek from Watershed Management Group shares the news about their Rainwater Harvesting certification course in Albuquerque.   Bring it!

Tree love = mulch

Mulching shades the ground, retains moisture, and nurtures the small and microscopic critters that create living soil.  Wood mulch is sold at nurseries and by soil expert / local provider Soilutions.   Professional arborists and tree care companies may have extra wood mulch from the trees that they prune and remove, and you can pick up a load if you shovel it.  Or, DIY and recycle your branches and dead trees by renting a mulcher from a home and garden store.

Once you have the mulch, form an area around the tree’s drip line that will contain 3 inches of mulch.  Explore and view TreePeople‘s video for more.

Roll out the rainbarrels. (It will rain.)

Rebates for rain barrels are available from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.  You buy a barrel and send in the required form with the receipt.  The rebate amount is based on the size of the barrel.   (Also, a program that recognizes the drought’s impact on the urban forest, “Tree-bates,” helps pay for tree maintenance, such as irrigation equipment, fertilization or professional tree care.)  Free short classes on efficient outdoor water use, xeriscaping and how to benefit from the Water Authority’s rebate program are offered every month.

Living in the country?  Property owners in the unincorporated area of Bernalillo County who aren’t customers of the Water Authority can qualify to receive a 100-gallon rainbarrel with installation support for $40.  Rain barrels can provide water during wildfire emergencies as well as water for animals.

Materials for rainwater harvesting projects can be found at no or low cost through the ABQ Freecycle group and on Craigslist – farm and gardening.  Billy Kniffen is an terrific water harvester and offers videos on DIY barrels.

Watershed Management Group announces Water Harvesting  course

Catlow Shipek of the Watershed Management Group (WMG) provides this news:  WMG, a non-profit educational organization, is excited to bring its Water Harvesting Certification course to Albuquerque.  The 7-day intensive program, which will be offered September 15-21, provides the highest quality and greatest depth of training in integrative water harvesting offered in the nation. Join our list of Certified Practitioners to integrate new skills and knowledge into your practice, educational, or advocacy work.

This unique course includes hands-on training through actual implementation of a rain garden, plastic rain tank, and a laundry greywater system.  Instructors will include author Brad Lancaster, WMG co-founder Catlow Shipek, and Santa Fe based permaculture and water harvesting designer Jeff Adams.  An early registration discount is available until July 18th.


Rainwater Harvesting and Green Infrastructure Demonstration Program

Demonstrate with your neighbors!

Collaborate on rainwater and stormwater harvesting demo projects with Querencia Green.  Technical and organizing support is available for neighbor teams in Albuquerque and the North and South Valley.  Key activities should include:

  • Hold a Workshop and form a Demo Team in your neighborhood.
  • Examine local Opportunity Sites. Consider site designs for your selected project.
  • Develop connections and identify actions for installing the project.

Benefits abound:  Learn how to use rainwater efficiently.  Develop a model for our community.  Support a cleaner Rio Grande.

Read more.  Fill out an interest form if you and a few neighbors want to make the most of the rain when it falls.

Event: Turning Water Scarcity Into Water Abundance

This spring, no one can deny that much of New Mexico is in “extreme” and “exceptional”  drought conditions. The landscapes in Albuquerque are dry and several types of trees are not leafing out.

Albuquerque’s annual average precipitation is 9.4 inches, but last year it was 5.5 inches.  It is also hotter, thus more arid. As we acknowledge that every drop counts, many of us have started to practice water harvesting.

As more neighbors capture rainwater to support gardens, trees and wildlife, numerous  benefits can result. We conserve potable water when we use rainwater for outdoor uses, and save energy used to deliver potable water through the distribution system of the water authority. On-site stormwater capture can also reduce the storm flows on our streets, thus reducing some of the nasty pollutants, like e. coli,  that enter the Rio Grande.

Brad Lancaster lives in Tucson, Arizona, and he understands arid places! He is a permaculture teacher, designer, consultant, and the author of the award-winning booksRainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond,” Volumes 1 and 2.

Querencia Green is co-sponsoring a free public presentation with Lancaster on Friday, June 7, at 6 pm, at George Pearl Hall / UNM School of Architecture and Planning. Brad’s presentations are entertaining and informative, and in the heat of June, his message will be welcome!

Querencia Green’s vision is to support neighbor teams in developing green projects, and the story of Brad’s street is illuminating. He started collecting rainwater on his corner property, and gradually, other neighbors harvesting rainwater from their rooftops and the street. The block was transformed – see photo above.  Mesquite trees and other plants provide shade, habitat, a sense of place and beauty. Flour milled from the plentiful mesquite pods is good food for all.

The other co-sponsors for this event are Erda Gardens and Learning Center, Kalyx Studio, and UNM Sustainability Studies Program. Refreshments will be provided by La Montanita Coop and a few sponsors will have information tables after Brad’s talk. Financial support for the event is provided by UNM’s Office for the Vice President of Research.  

Workshop on June 9

Grab a shovel!  Brad Lancaster will also lead a hands-on workshop at Kalyx Studio in the South Valley on Sunday June 9. Participants will learn and practice earthwork techniques to improve the efficiency of acequia irrigation and rainwater capture for the home garden.  Registration and fee information is available from Leslie Buerk at her e-mail: Leslie is a certified permaculture designer.

And the clouds drift by!

Rain to Harvest, Water to Share

I like to walk in the rain and watch the water running off the rooftops and into the downspouts of my townhome community.  When it rains for a while, most of it drains into the parking lots and driveways, then into the streets.  It seems like such a loss in a time of drought and climate change!

I was inspired to harvest rainwater, and my community’s Sustainability Committee took on the challenge.  So far, there are four rainwater tanks installed on the site.  We enjoy learning and observing the results.  Water conservation is one result, when residents use the stored water for gardens and houseplants instead of potable (tap) water.  Property protection is another; the tanks hold stormwater that could collect and ‘puddle’ near foundations and doorways.

A few lessons learned

Tank size: Location and budget determines size.  Consider the amount of water that can be captured.  How much rain falls on your roof areas during the year and during a monsoon event?

1 inch of rain on 1 square foot of surface = 6/10 gallon.  1 inch of rain on 1,000 SF = 623 gallons.

A neighbor would collect water in buckets and lug them back to her patio, until a tank was installed.

A neighbor would collect water in buckets and lug them back to her patio, until a tank was installed.

One of our downspouts could convey an average amount of 8,200 gallons of rainwater a year, though the drought has reduced the actual amount in recent years.  Some people have told me that they bought a tank that was too small, and they wanted more storage capacity!

Overflow: Where does the extra water go when the tank is full?  An overflow pipe with holes allows extra water to drain in a controlled manner.  Swales and basins will slow water flow on a slope.  Another tank can be connected to the first tank. Opportunities become apparent with observation.

Preparation: Build a foundation for the tank on a level surface.  Our committee drew a plan for the first tank and used sand for the base, topped with pavers.  Use concrete blocks to raise the tank’s height.

Purchase: We purchased our tanks from a local vendor who installed them with overflow pipes.  The tanks are made by a local company with recyclable, food-grade polyethylene.  Rebates are available to customers of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority for new rainwater tanks, depending on the size.  Also look for the more integrated Rainwater Harvesting Landscape rebate.

The sound of rain in New Mexico is sweet.  The sound of rainwater flowing into a tank changes as the tank fills up.  Those sounds are even sweeter.  

Joanne McEntire