Friday, August 29, 2008

Turning Water Scarcity Into Water Abundance

Thursday August 28, 2008 • 7:00 pm

Wow! I counted almost 200 people packed into the Chaparral Auditorium in Ojai to hear renowned rainwater harvesting Brad Lancaster's talk, "Turning Water Scarcity Into Water Abundance." This Slide Show and Book Signing was sponsored by the Ojai Valley Green Coalition as part of their monthly Ecology and Community series. Congratulations to the organizers for bringing such an enlightening speaker to our watershed!

The evening began with a rather dry presentation by Jim MacDonald, a Ventura County building official, about the county's new greywater codes. After hearing the bureacratic restrictions, it was not surprising that nobody in Ventura County has applied for a greywater permit since it became effective in February. Apparently there are far more effective statewide greywater ordinances in Arizona and New Mexico, something to begin to work toward in California, where the governor has proclaimed a statewide drought.

Best selling author Brad Lancaster lives in Tuscon, Arizona, which receives 12 inches of rain annually - slightly less than Ventura's 15 inches and Ojai's 20 inches annually. Turns out, just like the Ventura River, Tuscon once had a free flowing river. Now dry most of the year, and channelized in concrete, Brad showed how land use and development practices have created a scarcity of water. Then he says "Are you scared? Do you live in 'Scare-City'?" Looking at concrete channels like this one in Ventura, I'd say so. (I AM scared to surf after it rains)

Then Brad shared the story of how he and his brother converted their home, run down and destined for condemnation when they bought it in 1996, into an 'oasis' of life right in the heart of the desert city of Tuscon. The makeover was so dramatic that it grew into a neighborhood effort, with residents coordinated tree planting and stormwater capture on city right of way's, eliminating flooding, traffic, and turning the heat island streetscape into a 'cool island.' Brad also presented some great numbers on how much rainwater the impermeable street surfaces in Tuscon flush away unused in the desert city.

Turning around and pointing to the seat of his pants, he says "now we can do a bun dance' with our a-bun-dance of water and the benefits that come with that abundance!"

Brad's new book Rainwater Harvesting, Vol. 2 will make you want to get out your shovels and dance in the rain! Beyond that, it will:

· Show you how to select, place, size, construct, and plant your chosen water-harvesting earthworks.

· Present detailed how-to information and variations of a diverse array of earthworks, including mulch, vegetation, and greywater recycling, so that you can customize the techniques to your site.

For those who live in coastal watersheds, these are very simple and cheap ways to create your 'Ocean Friendly Garden.' And now that the City of Ventura has committed to a 'Green Streets' program, there may be opportunities for our neighborhood communities to start cutting curbs and planting trees!

To learn more about Brad Lancaster and his work, visit