Saturday, May 25, 2024

My favorite places in Tucson to bring visitors

Gazing at Brad Lancaster's house and cisterns in Dunbar-Spring neighborhood

After a day exploring the rainwater and greywater features on our yard, the sun went down. We decided to harvest some tasty (and slightly sour) barrel cactus fruit to prepare for Watershed Management Group's Family Saturday event. 

Slice and bake barrel cactus leaving the seeds in place

The next morning, we were off to Watershed Management Group where I gave Lillie a quick tour of the Living Lab and Learning Center. Check out the chicken coop that Dan helped to build. The chickens compost the lab's kitchen and garden scraps so they can be used for fertilizer for the nearby food forest. 

Also on the campus is a big underground cistern that holds 10,000 gallons of water collected off of two roofs on the campus. The wooden hatch in the foreground is the access cover to the cistern.

And in the background is their stylish blue bathroom with composting toilets that provide humanure for the many trees at the Living Lab. 

Since Lillie is a civil engineering mayor with an emphasis on the environment, Dan figured she would benefit from an explanation of their water filtration system. The water pumped out of the underground cistern is filtered so it can be used for drinking. 

Those are just a few of the conservation efforts demonstrated at the Living Lab. You can learn about more on the Living Lab Tour. Dan might even be your guide! 

Always the trooper, Lillie was game for a tour of Brad Lancaster's Dunbar-Spring neighborhood

We saw a roadrunner enjoying a path shaded with native palo verde trees in rainwater harvesting basins.

On the path was a sign that showed BEFORE AND AFTER the rainwater harvesting features were installed. The area in front of Brad's house used to be nothing but hard, stark ground. Now there is a lush desert food forest and habitat for all kinds of desert critters! 

We were inspired by the community spirit in this neighborhood as well as the street art, rainwater and traffic calming features that the industrious neighbors installed. 

We saw the famous "garottage" (garage cottage) where Brad lives. Dan explained the passive solar that the positioning of the house provided. 
Sign explaining passive solar

I couldn't wait to show off the many rainwater features like the curb cut that directs water into the rock-lined catchment basin to water that native mesquite tree.

This is on the same street where Brad installed the first guerilla curb cuts that are now legal and eligible for rebates in Tucson and are part of neighborhood Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects being installed by the city.

Just look at all the shade this traffic calming chicane provides the neighborhood! 

Water from the street nourishes the native trees and plants in this chicane

Jeremy reminded me that they need to be able to explore for themselves.

Jeremy and Lillie explore a traffic circle that serves as a habitat for desert critters.

And make their own discoveries... 

But it always comes back to this...

We celebrated with a yummy dinner at the nearby La Indita restaurant on Stone. 

Then it was off for a well deserved day of fun at the Desert Museum!

Where Lillie made her own discoveries...

But we can't help to point out the reason that all of that water conservation matters. From a platform at the Desert Museum, we spotted the Central Avra Valley recharge basins. Our CAP water is pumped 326 miles from the Colorado River which we share with seven other states and Mexico - who are also suffering from a severe drought. 

Rainwater harvesting is one tool for water security in Tucson and helps to cool our neighborhoods. 

Central Avra Valley recharge basins from Desert Museum

It was great spending a few days exploring some of the most inspiring places in Tucson with Jeremy and Lillie! 

To find out how much water you can harvest at home, try out this simple water budget calculator from Watershed Management Group.


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