Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Can we cure our water shortages by harvesting rainwater from our roadways?

Picture of water runoff
Water runoff
NOAA/NOS/Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Image via Wikipedia
According to AlterNet, a National Resources Defense Council report published last month shows that one-third of U.S. counties face water shortages today, but are we really running out of water?

Not according to Benjamin Radford. In The Water Shortage Myth, he tells us we would have plenty of fresh water to meet our domestic and agriculture needs if we managed it better.

Harvesting roadway runoff nourishes crops, saves lives
Take roadway runoff as an example. In this twelve-minute video, we learn how Africans faced with severe water shortages are using ancient and not-so-ancient techniques to harvest rainwater from their roadways.

Currently, much of the runoff in the United States' vast roadway system goes directly down the drain, into our rivers and, ultimately, to our oceans, where fresh water becomes undrinkable salt water.

What if we started harvesting our runoff? It just might be the Ordinary thing to do.

Read the entire NRDC report: Evaluating Sustainability of Projected Water Demands in 2050 under Climate Change Scenarios
We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.
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Lauren Alissa Hunter said...

Very interesting post... Michelle from Crow's Feet sent me here and your blog is a jewel. I will definitely be indulging in your archives.

Deb Shucka said...

What a powerful idea - simple and effective. And why aren't we doing it?

Hayden said...

How about if we rebuild our soil? Healthy soil, filled with living creatures can easily "harvest" most downpours and simply hold it - eliminating run-off. Clearly this wouldn't work with paved surfaces, you show a method for using that. But harvesting and "storing" water in the soil minimizes the impact of drought, by releasing it slowly as needed. Many parts of the US that never used to irrigate must now - and yet their living-soil neighbors have green fields and do not. You'd think they'd notice - instead, they assume there is some other mechanical difference in the soil, clay perhaps. But clay doesn't easily give up either it's water or it's nutrients, while living soil does.

This is one of my primary focuses here. We get a lot of rain most years - but not always. And sometimes too much, drowning the crops. So increasing the ability of my soil to absorb, hold and store water is - IMHO - crucial to the long-term ability of the land to produce annual crops. My practices will take years to be fully effective, and then will only be obvious when the rain is too little or too much. Still - worth doing I think!

Kathryn Grace said...

Deb, street flooding is a huge problem for every city during heavy rainfall. Most city councils simply aren't aware that installing capture methods could save many dollars in staff overtime as well as saving lost business revenues due to overflowing gutters and clogged drainage systems.

Water conservation would be a byproduct for those folks, but one with which they could make plenty of political hay. In dry regions, rainwater and runoff capture could be a huge boon.

So why aren't we doing it? It takes the interest and will of a few concerned citizens to spark a conversation and from there, action. If a couple of like-minded individuals were to do a little research and talk to their local environmental groups and chapters, such as Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, very likely they could generate enough interest to get the job done. Win win for everyone. In the end, as ever, it's up to us, making a change where we live.

Hayden, absolutely. Rebuilding our soil and replenishing the moisture-retaining organic matter in the soil is an important aspect of reducing runoff. Where soil health is restored, the need for massive quantities of artificial irrigation is greatly reduced as well. But you know the facts around this so much better than I do. Would you consider writing a guest post on rebuilding soil basics here? It is such an important topic and a keen part of creating a more Village-of-Ordinary world.

You also mention clay. You should see the gardens my mom nurtured on clay that had been conventionally farmed for decades. In just a few short years she grew a magnificent, rich landscape. Her gummy clay soil is now deep and rich with organic matter. And the critters! Good soil and healthy vegetation invite an ever changing panorama of wildlife.

Thank you both for taking the time to visit and respond. Your opinions are valuable.

Kathryn Grace said...

Deb, probably it isn't being done because none of us, the citizens of our communities, have gone to our city councils and shown them how they could save money and reduce business downtime by installing rainwater and runoff capture systems.

Those pesky street floods so many of us deal with during the wet season occur partially because we don't have a means to capture the overflow, let alone the runoff. It always comes back to us, sparking a conversation with someone, and another and another, until enough folks are talking about it that we can bring public opinion to bear. that's when our leaders listen and are motivated to take action.

Hayden, yes! You know more about soil conservation and replenishment than any blogger I'm reading now, and everything you say is true. I invite you to write a guest post about what you are finding on your farm, if you are interested, so that we can spread the word a little further. Nurturing the soil is the primary reason I eat food grown under organic methods. This is a huge topic, and hugely important.

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