If there is one thing you learn living in Las Cruces, NM and the desert Southwest, it’s that when it rains it pours. Now that it’s monsoon season, I thought this would be a great time to talk about one of my favorite water conservation techniques: rainwater harvesting.
Since Las Cruces only gets an average of about 9 inches of rain a year, it might seem like rainwater harvesting is a waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you are careful about your water usage and the types of plants you choose, even Las Cruces rainfall can provide you with land scape water year-round.
Why harvest rainwater
Without harvesting rainfall for landscape uses, we consume our groundwater for the task. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that by 2013 at least 36 states in the United States may be facing water shortages.
Because of the possibility of future short ages, many city, county and state governments are already recognizing the need to conserve water resources. The city of Las Cruces already restricts the number of days you are allowed to water your landscaping vegetation to three days a week. During the summer, the city further restricts the hours you are allowed to water (no watering from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
With further restrictions likely to become a reality in coming years, now is a great time to start thinking about how rainwater can supply some or all of your landscape water needs.
Rainwater harvesting systems
The basics of all rainwater-harvesting systems are pretty much the same. During a rainstorm, water runoff from your roof can be collected in some kind of storage container for future use.
The two main types of rainwater-harvesting systems are above-ground barrel collection and the more sophisticated below ground cistern collection system.
Barrel collection is the easiest way to add rainwater harvesting to an existing home. Picacho Hills resident Elaine Childs is an avid gardener and uses collected rainwater to water all of her indoor and outdoor plants year-round. After she purchased an existing home in Picacho Hills, Childs created her own rainwater-harvesting system by connecting a 100-gallon barrel with a network of five additional 80-gallon barrels.
Childs said she spent very little money assembling her system by purchasing the barrels on sale or at garage sales. She connected the barrels with a standard garden hose and add ed a spigot to each. The barrels are on raised plant stands so she can easily fill a watering can. The main barrel is paced under a canale on her roof, and collects all of the rainwater runoff during a storm.
If you are designing and building a new home, an underground cistern system can store significantly more water than a barrel system. Las Cruces resident Bill Dethlefs installed a 1,500-gallon underground rainwater cistern when he built his Picacho Mountain custom home two years ago. Water is collected through a system of PVC drains under the canales and around the home. The rainwater-harvesting cistern provides almost all of the water used by Dethlefs’ drip irrigation system year-round.
Dethlefs said his cistern system has worked perfectly for watering his landscaping over the past two years. “I don’t have any regrets in installing the system,” Dethlefs said.
The amount of watering you are able to do with your harvested rainwater depends entirely on the type and size of system you install.
Challenges of rainwater harvesting
One of the best smells in the desert is the fresh scent of a rainstorm. However, let that rainwater sit stagnate in your yard for a few weeks, and it won’t smell quite as good. The good news is a properly installed and cared for system won’t have odor problems.
Light and bacteria are the two things that will cause your stored water to smell. Childs said that by keeping her rainwater covered in dark barrels, she has been able to avoid any odor in her stored water.
Mosquitoes are another concern. An underground system stores water safely away, so you don’t have to worry about pests. For her above-ground barrel system, Childs just places a mesh screen across the barrel opening. This not only prevents bugs from getting into the water, it also filters the water as it comes off of the roof into the barrels.
The benefits of rainwater harvesting out weigh any challenges you may face. If you’re looking for a way to make your home more environmentally friendly, rainwater harvesting is a great way to start.
Contact Picacho Mountain today at 575-523-2500 for more information on water conservation and building your energy-efficient, green home in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Estate Homes, Patio Homes, Town Homes & Neighborhood Retail.