Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Conserve Tucson's precious water by using it twice

A Tucson friend's outside shower waters the plants in their yard. 

You might have read in the news about the negotiations on the drought contingency plan. When they originally divided the water between the various states and Mexico, they divvied out more water than we have  - and didn't take into account Climate Change or our perpetual development. To exacerbate the problem,  many farmers are still planting thirsty plants and the Rosemont Mine threatens to deplete Tucson's ground water. We might wanna rethink the Four Cs of Arizona's Economy: Copper, climate, cotton & citrus.

The city of Tucson has already reduced residential water usage during the past two decades. In 2010, our residential water usage rates were 94 gallons per capita per day. By 2015, Tucson’s water usage was down to 80 GPCD. But we can do better than that. 

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I advocate for rainwater harvesting to make Tucson water secure. If everyone does rainwater harvesting, there is enough water for every person in Tucson. Unfortunately, less than 1% of us are doing any rainwater harvesting. And our outdoor water use still accounts for 30% of residential water use in the Tucson area.

Many of us are already conserving water by turning off the tap while brushing our teeth or while soaping our hands or scrubbing our hair in the shower.  Now that we've mastered that habit, the next step is to use our residential water twice when we can. 

State Senator Andrea Dalessandro, who sits on the Natural Resources and Energy committee, mentioned at Environmental Day at the Capitol that she puts a bucket in the shower to catch the water while it warms up. Way to walk the talk! Some friends of ours have installed lovely outdoor  showers that water their backyard landscaping. (I wouldn't recommend this in the front yard!) 

Some of you might remember my blog, "Rebel Dishwater Gardener." Here I am using our clean rinse water in our kitchen garden. 

I dump the dirty dish water in our compost pile to keep it moist.

Especially precious is the coffee ground water that my Tombstone Rosebush (my one sentimental extravagance) and tomatoes plants love. I've been experimenting with putting the grounds around the trunk of our Tombstone Rose and our moringa to deter the leaf cutter ants from stripping them of all their leaves. (I think it might cover their pheromone trail. Still testing this theory... So far it appears to be working! The ants marched by one moringa to gather seeds from a dead weed in the basin...) 

I like to use the veggie water from the steamer pan to nourish the soil by the tomato or curry plants.

We were blessed to have an outdoor washing machine. Dan easily rigged up a greywater system to irrigate sturdy, low water use heritage fig and pomegranate trees. (Our native trees are doing fine without any city water.) 

Another easy way to use water twice is to let your yellow mellow by sharing one flush with your partner in the morning.  But Dan's big dream is to have a composting toilet like the one at Watershed Management Group. (I haven't encouraged this because I would never see my husband.) 

It's not always easy. But using water a second time is a great way to learn not to take our water for granted.

As our politicians bicker over who is entitled to our allotment of CAP water, it is becoming clear that it isn't a sustainable source. We need to transition to a more local system and start conserving water like we live in the desert. Because we do. 

For Information on the social injustices caused by CAP read:

Hopis: Protectors of Earth and Water

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Planting Hope

I watched as the scraggly squirrel that lives in our backyard spotted the bright red blossom on our willowy baby pomegranate tree from its perch on our fence.

When Dan planted the durable, heritage pomegranate and fig trees in our greywater basin, he knew we wouldn't be harvesting them anytime soon. It would be a while before the little pomegranate would even be able to bear the weight of its fruit. Watching the scruffy squirrel scamper away with its flower, I realized it will take years until there is enough fruit for all the garden critters, much less us. But I see now that Dan was planting more than just fruit. He was sowing something for future inhabitants - maybe our boys. He was planting hope.

As our country's political landscape heated up, we watched as one of our neighbors built a metal fortress around their yard and posted NO TRESPASSING. Meanwhile, we planted edible moringa along the sidewalk - an invitation for our neighbors to partake. I tended the seeds daily, watching happily as they peeked through their mulchy blanket reaching for rain drops. Dan had planted hope along with the rain.

And I have to admit, I needed that hope to deal with the political climate especially in the face of climate change. It seemed like everyday another environmental protection was being dismantled by our politicians. The effects of climate change were already being felt here in Tucson: the early summer with its rising temperatures and the sporadic, unreliable downpours. Our flourishing moringa was struck by a microburst!

Then the government came out with a report announcing that we had 12 years to do something to offset the worse effects of climate change. I took that as a Call to Action (as did many of my peeps.)  But some people misinterpreted that to mean it was already too late - we had 12 years until the shit hit the fan - so we might as well party and go out with a bang! That's a perfectly reasonable reaction - if there is no hope. But...


There are lots of positive actions we can take to improve the outcome.

Let's start with something simple. Start by planting one native tree. Or save one tree.

I know. I know. The general response is, "How can one person make a difference?" The answer is: one person can't.  But nobody said you have to go this alone.

What if we all planted one tree? All of us. Billions of us. And then we planted a second tree...

What if  we worked together as a community to install rainwater harvesting systems in every yard to water our edible forests and gardens? There would be enough water for every home in Tucson! The city and county are already installing these systems all over town. What if we all decided to stop cooking with palm oil to prevent the industry from cutting down more of the rain-forest? Those trees sequester carbon! Sure, there's a lot more we need to do. But this is a start. Imagine how much we could accomplish if we worked together!

Right now we need to plant hope more than ever before.

We can get inspiration from the moringa that got hit by a micro burst...

It's thriving now! Growing from roots deeply planted in hope.

Read more:

For the love of Tucson: Creating a desert oasis to combat climate change