[permaculture] Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, Volume 2: Water-Harvesting Earthworks by Brad Lancaster is NOW AVAILABLE!

Wesley Roe and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network lakinroe at silcom.com
Tue May 6 02:20:35 EDT 2008

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, Volume 2: Water-Harvesting Earthworks


Hello Water Harvesters.

"Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, 
Volume 2: Water-Harvesting Earthworks" is NOW AVAILABLE!
You can order it from my website or any 
bookstore. (Though it works best for me to order 
it through my website, since less money is 
funneled off, and I can direct more funds to 
research, education, and getting the next volume 
done). You can place order by check via the mail 
or with credit card or pay pal - see the book 
order page on the website for details.

I've also updated the website with more great resources!
In particular, I recommend you check out the
• "Water Harvesting Demonstration Sites"
• "Water Harvesting Financial Incentives"
• and all the rest found under the "Rainwater 
Harvesting Info/Resources" menu button

In addition, check out the "Images, Video, and 
Audio" menu button for more interactive stuff and sensory stimuli.

I will continually update and revise the website 
- so keep checking back, especially for all the 
events, workshops, and presentations I keep adding.

Let me know what you think with both the book and 
the website I appreciate all constructive feedback.

Now get out there and harvest and plant the rain to grow abundance!

- Brad Lancaster

Earthworks are one of the easiest, least 
expensive, and most effective ways of passively 
harvesting and conserving multiple sources of 
water in the soil. Associated vegetation then 
pumps the harvested water back out in the form of 
beauty, food, shelter, wildlife habitat, and 
passive heating and cooling strategies, while 
controlling erosion, increasing soil fertility, 
reducing downstream flooding, and improving water and air quality.

Building on the information presented in Volume 
1, this book shows you how to select, place, 
size, construct, and plant your chosen 
water-harvesting earthworks. It presents detailed 
how-to information and variations of a diverse 
array of earthworks, including chapters on mulch, 
vegetation, and greywater recycling so you can 
customize the techniques to the unique requirements of your site.

Real life stories and examples permeate the book, including:
    * How curb cuts redirect street runoff to 
passively irrigate flourishing shade trees planted along the street.
    * How check dams have helped create springs 
and perennial flows in once-dry creeks
    * How infiltration basins are creating thriving rain-fed gardens
    * How backyard greywater laundromats are 
turning “wastewater” into a resource growing 
food, beauty, and shade that builds community, and more
    * How to create simple tools to read slope and water flow
    * More than 450 illustrations and photographs

Praise for Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

“Brad Lancaster has written the definitive how-to 
guide for harvesting rainwater. Much of this 
information has been near impossible to find, and 
we owe Brad a huge debt for assembling it so 
lucidly. These universal principles work not just 
in drylands, but in wetter climates too. This is 
by far the best resource for designing and 
building Earth-friendly, low-cost solutions to 
help us save our most precious resource, water.”
–Toby Hemenway, author of “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture”

“Everyone wants to ‘go green’ lately and, 
usually, the expression is followed by a plug for 
a new product. Brad offers a shovel instead, and 
directs you, literally, not figuratively, to your 
own back yard. We’ve tried some of the methods 
explained in this book, and they work. Even if 
you’re a lazy, mediocre, vagabond gardener, like 
we are, they still work. And if you don’t take 
the time to understand every technical detail so 
thoroughly outlined in this bible of rainwater– these methods still will work.”
–Shay Salomon and Nigel Valdez, author and 
photographer, “Little House on a Small Planet”

“Get out your shovels and dance in the rain! That 
is what Brad Lancaster’s second volume in his 
trilogy on rainwater harvesting, will make you 
want to do. This outstanding book provides an 
abundance of well-documented ideas and tools for 
sustainable living in your watershed. You don’t 
have to let wasteful, polluting large-scale water 
systems get you down­get out, get wet, and become 
a positive part of the hydrological cycle!”
–David A. Cleveland, U of California, Santa 
(http://www.es.ucsb.edu/faculty/cleveland/) and 
Center for People, Food and Environment; 
co-author of “Food from Dryland Gardens”

For more Volume 2 testimonials click 

Book specifications:

    * ISBN 978-0-9772464-1-0
    * LCCN 2007943019
    * Published by Rainsource Press
    * Distributed in North America by 
<http://www.chelseagreen.com/>Chelsea Green Publishing Company 1-800-639-4099
    * Distributed in Australia by 
<http://www.towerbooks.com.au>Tower Books 02-9975-5599
    * Paperback
    * 8.5 X 11
    * 448 pages
    * Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper
    * Categories: Rainwater harvesting, Water 
harvesting, Landscape design, Ecology, 
Sustainable development, Do-it-yourself 
technology, Sustainable stormwater management, Erosion control
and Reviews
2 Foreword by Andy Lipkis
2 Resource Pages (appendix 6)

Volume 2 Foreword by Andy Lipkis

“G’day! How yur tanks?”

This four-word greeting changed my life.

Twenty-one years ago while traveling up the east 
coast of Australia with my wife and infant 
daughter, I noticed that nearly every 
conversation between rural Australians began with this question.

Instead of the automatic, “How are you?” or “Nice 
weather,” it was a specific question that­once I 
figured out what it meant­spoke volumes about 
these people’s connections: to the land, to each other, and to the environment.

Tanks, also known as cisterns, are the very large 
containers that store captured rainwater and 
provide rural Australians with their life 
support: vital water for drinking, bathing, and 
gardening. Many rely exclusively on captured rainwater for all their needs.

This one question bundled and abbreviated a 
collection of concerns: How is your water supply 
holding out? How has the rain treated you? How 
are you doing in managing your land and water? 
How is your family holding up? At what state of 
readiness do we need to be for our community today?

Having spent much of my life working to awaken 
people’s awareness and inspire them to take 
personal responsibility for the environment, I 
was flabbergasted at the advanced state of 
consciousness being expressed by these Aussies, 
and I saw in that awareness an answer to the 
water crisis facing cities both in my native Los 
Angeles as well as in arid and non-arid lands around the world.

And for that same reason, I congratulate and 
thank you for picking up this book. You wouldn’t 
be reading this if you didn’t have an awareness 
of the need to take responsibility and action 
either to secure your own water supply or help 
solve the larger looming problems. Whether you 
are in it for selfish or selfless reasons, you 
are a pioneer and taking on the role of 
environmental healer. You are an early 
adapter­because of climate change and other 
issues­to a world that is already experiencing 
ever-increasing water and energy issues.

Your experience, persistence, and success in this 
new wave of rainwater harvesting may lead the way 
to wide-scale systemic adoption and implementation in cities around the world.

Rainwater capture is transitioning from an 
individual act of personal survival and 
self-reliance, to one that is replanting seeds of 
community, interdependence, resilience, and sustainability.

The local and global world water situation is 
becoming urgent. As humans in first world 
nations, our consumption and waste of natural 
resources is generating sufficient pollution and 
depletion to damage and impair the healthy 
functioning of nearly every natural system on 
earth. These ecosystems are our life-support 
infrastructure for clean, abundant, and safe 
water, as well as food, oxygen, and a stable 
climate. Reversing the degradation requires a 
profound transformation of individual and communal perspective and behavior.

Instead of believing that government and 
centralized systems are in charge of the 
environment, we must shift to the other end of 
the spectrum where individuals, families, 
households, neighborhoods, villages, and towns 
take personal and collective responsibility and 
see that they are the managers of the ecosystem 
and their natural life support systems. In this 
emerging paradigm, government can and must 
provide information, guidance, feedback, 
resources, incentives, and systems that enable 
people to utilize their passion, compassion, 
creativity, and other energies to help out on an ongoing basis.

If the issues above aren’t reason enough, it is 
important to realize that harvesting rainwater is 
a crucial means of fighting global warming and 
preparing our homes, families, neighborhoods, and 
communities for the coming consequences.

As you read this book, you’ll find that rainwater 
harvesting practiced as prescribed herein is 
really watershed and ecosystem stewardship. In 
sculpting your landscape and creating water 
capture systems, you will be restoring, 
revitalizing, or mimicking natural systems such 
as forest watersheds; as such, you’ll be 
repairing the ecosystem and laying the 
foundations of your community’s sustainability. 
And you will be a leader. Any change you make on 
your home can become a demonstration and model 
that others­your neighbors, elected officials, or 
government agency staff­will be able to study and copy.

As president of TreePeople, a nonprofit 
organization I founded 37 years ago, I like to 
say that we are helping nature heal our cities. 
Our work is to inspire people to take personal 
responsibility and participate in making their 
cities sustainable urban environments. Our prime 
focus is to support people in designing, 
planting, and caring for functioning community 
forests in every neighborhood in Los Angeles (at 
the time of this writing, one of the world’s least sustainable megacities).

Forests are natural sustainability 
infrastructure. Trees are THE basic earthwork. 
Amongst other things, trees and forests, and the 
highly porous and mulched soil beneath them, 
capture, slow, filter, store, and recycle 
rainwater, and thereby recharge streams, 
groundwater aquifers, and springs. They provide 
protection from droughts, floods, and 
pollution­cleaning the water so it’s drinkable 
and usable. Trees and forests sustain life. 
Unfortunately, when most cities were created, the 
land’s original watershed functionality was 
unwittingly destroyed. The idea behind 
functioning community forests is to plant trees 
and manage the land in cities in a way that 
mimics natural forests, bringing water, 
protection, and resources back to urban 
residents. However, since urbanization has sealed 
so much of the land with buildings, roads, and 
parking lots, simply planting trees and creating 
green spaces often isn’t enough to make up for 
the lost watershed. By adding additional 
rainwater harvesting technologies that are 
designed to mimic nature, such as 
earthworks­infiltration pits, swales, and 
cisterns­it is possible to replace the watershed 
and ecosystem functions that were lost.

The magnitude of the water crisis­and the 
opportunity­became clear to me in 1992, when the 
US Army Corps of Engineers proposed to spend half 
a billion dollars to increase the capacity of the 
Los Angeles River by raising the height of its 
concrete walls. The Corps determined that the Los 
Angeles area had been so overpaved that, instead 
of soaking into the ground, rainwater from a 
100-year storm event would rush off all the paved 
and sealed surfaces so quickly that it would 
overwhelm the river and flood the nearby cities of southern L.A. County.

It was at that moment that the “How Yur Tanks?” 
lessons clicked for me. I wondered how much of 
our 14.7 inches (373 mm) of average annual 
rainfall we were throwing away each year, and 
whether we could use that half billion dollars 
for cisterns to capture and use that precious 
rainwater, just like the Australians. I asked the 
county’s flood control engineers and they 
dismissed the idea, stating that replacing the 
river walls would require installing a 
20,000-gallon (75,800-liter) tank at each of one 
million homes­an expensive and impossible task. 
The local water supply and stormwater quality 
agencies had similar responses to my questions. 
The idea was too expensive for their individual 
missions and budgets and would require what they 
all considered to be completely unacceptable 
lifestyle changes on the part of the public. In 
the process of these discussions, however, I 
learned that our average rainfall, if harvested 
and used appropriately, could replace the portion 
of our imported water that we use for landscape 
irrigation­roughly half of the one billion 
dollars worth of water the city of Los Angeles IMPORTED every year.

What seemed impossible to the agencies was 
perfectly logical to me. Having participated in 
design and deployment of LA City’s 
extraordinarily successful curbside recycling 
program that now serves 750,000 households, the 
magnitude of the task didn’t worry me. I 
researched and found out that the separate 
water-related agencies had separate, unconnected 
plans to spend a combined $20 billion in the next 
decade or so to upgrade or repair their 
respective systems, yielding only “band-aids” 
with no overall improvement in sustainability of the region.

So, I began designing a 20,000-gallon 
(75,800-liter) cistern that could safely fit in a 
small urban yard without compromising anyone’s 
lifestyle or posing any threat during our 
occasional earthquakes. It turned out to be a 
modular 2-foot-wide, linear, recycled food-grade 
plastic tank that could replace the fence or wall 
that separates most urban and suburban 
residential properties. Further, I proposed to 
outfit all the tanks with wireless 
remote-controlled valves and pumps that would 
enable flood control, water supply, and 
stormwater quality officials to centrally manage 
the multitude of independent tanks as one highly adaptable storage network.

The networked mini-reservoirs could thereby 
perform at least triple service for potentially 
less money than all the agencies’ separate 
projects. By adapting all the areas’ landscapes 
to become functioning community forest 
watersheds, my system was intended to produce 
multiple additional benefits such as creating 
tens of thousands of new green-collar jobs, 
saving copious amounts of electricity (by 
reducing air conditioning needs with well-placed 
shade trees AND reducing the pumping required to 
import water over the mountains into Los 
Angeles), reusing all garden and landscape 
biomass and prunings on site as mulch, creating a 
new local plastic recycling industry product and 
market, and creating a disaster-resilient backup local water supply.
This was a lovely and compelling vision, but no 
one in an official capacity took it seriously. I 
realized I’d need to do something to prove that 
the idea was feasible, both technically and 
economically. That notion turned into a six-year 
program of design, feasibility, and cost-benefit 
analysis that became known as the T.R.E.E.S. 
Project (Transagency Resources for Environmental 
and Economic Sustainability). It involved 
hundreds of engineers, landscape and building 
architects, foresters, scientists, and economists 
who collaborated to create a book full of designs 
and specifications (Second Nature, TreePeople, 
2000) to retrofit or adapt every major land use 
in Los Angeles to function as urban forest 
watersheds. Other team members spent two years 
conducting a rigorous cost-benefit analysis. And 
finally, we built a demonstration project, 
adapting a single-family home in South Los 
Angeles. The story of the T.R.E.E.S. Project, 
including all of its major partners and 
participants, is told at 

The demonstration site, known as the Hall House 
(named for its owner, Rozella Hall), had a 
relatively simple set of interconnected 
earthworks designed to capture, clean, store, and 
use rainwater from a massive storm event, and 
prevent any of the rainwater or biomass from 
leaving the property and thus being wasted. We 
built berms around the lawns, installed a mulched 
swale, put in a diversion drain to pick up 
driveway runoff and carry it to a sand filter 
under the lawn, fabricated and installed two 
modular 1,800-gallon (6,822-liter) fence-cisterns 
which were fed by rooftop rain gutters through a 
filter, then connected to the irrigation system, 
and finally, planted a trellis “green wall” of 
climbing roses to shade and cool the house’s 
sun-heated south-facing wall. We also removed 30% 
of the lawn and replaced the remaining turf area with drought-tolerant grass.

Then, on a hot August day in 1998, we invited our 
agency partners, numerous public works officials, 
and the news media to see the demonstration 
house. We handed them umbrellas and unleashed a 
1,500-year flood event, pumping and spraying on 
that one house 4,000 gallons (15,160 liters) of 
water in ten minutes. Officials huddled in 
stunned silence as they watched the water fall 
and flow, pooling in the bermed lawns and 
cistern. They saw that none of the water flowed 
to the street and stormdrain system. They saw 
how, in that one instant, their annual 
billion-dollar burden of separate infrastructure 
systems and needs were elegantly bundled and 
handled. The result: no stormwater pollution, no 
street flooding, no greenwaste, dramatic water 
and energy savings, more attractive landscape, 
and potentially thousands of new jobs.

The head of LA County Public Works’ flood control 
division couldn’t contain his enthusiasm and 
proclaimed that the simple elegance meant this 
demonstration could be easily replicated. A day 
later, after he and his staff reviewed both our 
engineered designs and cost-benefit analysis, he 
called me: “I’m sorry. We didn’t understand. We 
think you’ve cracked it. Your idea needs to be 
deployed throughout the whole county, but it’s 
going to cost more and take more time than you 
think. But despite that, we need to begin scaling 
this up immediately. We’d like to try this idea 
to solve one of the county’s most persistent urban flooding problems.”

That was the beginning of the Sun Valley 
Watershed project, located in the City of Los 
Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. After a successful 
two-year feasibility study, the County Public 
Works Department launched a thorough 
“stakeholder-led” watershed management planning 
and environmental impact analysis. Six years 
later, both the plan and environmental report 
were approved; construction of the first project 
began within a few weeks. The plan calls for the 
retrofit of 20% to 40% of the watershed’s 8,000 
homes, and installation of a diverse network of 
earthworks. The earthworks mix ranges from simple 
to complex, beginning with tree planting, 
pavement removal, mulching, and berming. On the 
more complex end, the projects will include 
installing street swales, and school watershed 
parks that replace asphalt play yards with 
permeable greenspaces above large underground 
infiltration systems and cisterns. Details of the 
Sun Valley Watershed Plan, progress and planning 
process are available at 

The Sun Valley Watershed planning process 
informed and transformed many of the 
participating agencies and organizations and 
inspired others who followed the process. For 
example, Los Angeles County Public Works formed a 
new, integrated Watershed Management Division. 
The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation 
launched and completed its first ever Integrated 
Resources Plan for Water. And among several 
cities outside the Los Angeles area, the City of 
Seattle initiated its Salmon Friendly Seattle 
program, which seeks to restore viable salmon 
habitat throughout the metropolitan area by 
revitalizing watershed and forest functionality 
in all the city’s neighborhoods.

There are several keys to the projects’ successes so far:
1) we demonstrated that these adaptations 
represented acceptable and attractive lifestyle 
changes that would be politically palatable;
2) we demonstrated with rigorous engineering that 
they were technically feasible, safe, and capable of solving pressing problems;
3) we demonstrated that they were economically 
feasible by identifying multiple outcomes and 
benefits that altogether would over time save 
money for the assembled funding partners; and
4) we engaged and educated all the stakeholders 
from both the community (including children) and relevant agencies.

This story is far from over. As it continues to 
unfold it presents a variety of political, 
jurisdictional, and regulatory issues and 
problems that we work to resolve. My initial 
vision was that so much water and money could be 
saved by local governments that agencies would 
help individuals and businesses cover the costs 
of installing and maintaining the systems on 
their properties. That is now happening in some 
cities, such as Santa Monica, Seattle, and 
Houston, that are giving grants for cisterns and water-saving landscapes.

As we confront growing water-quality and supply 
issues, plus the increased threat of flooding and 
weather-related calamities, it is increasingly 
urgent that we find ways of adapting our homes, 
neighborhoods, towns, and cities to become 
climate change and disaster resilient. You have a 
huge role to play in protecting your household 
and region by personally implementing some of the 
water-harvesting practices detailed in this book. 
If you do this, and make yours a demonstration 
project, you will help prove that it is feasible 
and attractive for your region. You will make it 
more politically palatable, so your local 
politicians can pass laws, change ordinances and 
codes, and make resources available to help 
others implement on a wide scale. And then, 
collectively, we just might tip the balance and 
put our nation on the road to a healthy, just, and sustainable future.

Dig in and have fun.

-Andy Lipkis

Andy Lipkis is president of TreePeople, a Los Angeles-based social-profit

Volume 2 Resource Pages (appendix 6)

This appendix provides a comprehensive list of 
helpful resources; it includes much more than 
just the texts cited in Rainwater Harvesting for 
Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2. This list begins 
with general rainwater-harvesting resources. Then 
sections II through XXV follow the topical order 
in the preface, introduction, chapters, and 
epilogue. Sections XXVI through XXIX provide 
helpful funding, financial incentives, 
human-powered pumps, and water conservation 
resources. Note: On website URLs: For long URLs, 
some readers may find it easier to just type in a 
title search in Google or another search engine. 
Almost all URLs listed below (or the organization 
from which a downloadable document is available) are resources in themselves.
General Resources for Harvesting Rainwater with Earthworks
(Preface). Mr. Zephaniah Phiri, ZWRP Zvishavane Water Resources Project
(Preface). Santa Cruz River, southern Arizona
(Preface). Water Conservation Strategies for the 
Industrial and Conventional Agriculture Sectors and Beyond
(Introduction). Soil and vegetation–the 
foundation of earthworks’ living systems
(Introduction). Fossil-fuel-free Landscaping/Gardening
(Introduction). Taking Action to Reduce Global 
Warming and Our Ecological Footprint
(Introduction). Water Harvesting in India
(Chapter 1). Assessing Your Site, Choosing Your 
Earthworks, and Tips on Implementation
(Chapter 2). Berm ‘n Basins
(Chapter 3). Terraces
(Chapter 4). French Drains
(Chapter 5). Infiltration Basins
(Chapter 6). Imprinting
(Chapter 7). Mulching
(Chapter 8). Reducing Hardscape
(Chapter 8). Permeable Paving
(Chapter 9). Diversion Swales
(Chapter 10). Check Dams
(Chapter 11). Vegetation
(Chapter 12). Greywater Harvesting
(Chapter 12). Composting
(Chapter 12). Composting Toilets
(Epilogue). Community and Commons Activism
(Epilogue) Watershed Awareness and Restoration
Grants and Funding Resources
Water-Harvesting Financial Incentives/Programs
Water Efficiency/Conservation
Human-Powered Pumps and Hand-Dug Wells

More information about the permaculture mailing list