Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster

About Brad Lancaster

Brad Lancaster headshot 2009

Since 1993 I’ve run a successful permaculture consulting, design, and education business focused on integrated and sustainable approaches to landscape design, planning, and living. And as I live in a dryland environment, water harvesting has long been one of my specialties and a passion. Through my business I’ve been able to share this passion and many of the fun innovations and daily adventures that come about from striving to live more sustainably and comfortably in the Sonoran Desert.  At home my brother and I harvest about 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year on a 1/8-acre urban lot and adjoining right-of-way. This harvested water is then turned into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape incorporating wildlife habitat, beauty, edible and medicinal plants, and more. Such sheltering landscapes can cool buildings by up to 20° F (11° C), reduce water and energy bills, and require little more than rainwater to thrive. Outside the home, I have helped others do the same, enabling clients to create ephemeral springs, raise the level of water in their wells, and shade and beautify neighborhood streets by harvesting their street runoff in adjacent tree wells.

But this is just the beginning. Water is the bait to entice you to see, connect with, and help enhance more of the greater whole. In this spirit, we also passively and actively harvest the sun for free and clean heat, light, and power. We expand and design shade in sync with the sun’s seasonally changing path across the sky, so that shade cools us in summer, but not in winter. Passive ventilation and wind harvesting boosts this free summer cooling. Fun, easy, dynamic stuff that generates more life—our true community health and wealth.

I started writing the Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond series with the goal of empowering my clients and my community to make positive change in their own lives and yards, by harvesting and enhancing free on-site resources such as water, sun, wind, shade, and more. I wanted to provide accessible books that explain what water harvesting is, how to do it appropriately, and how to tailor water-harvesting strategies to the unique conditions of different sites and integrate it with the harvest of other resources. I believe we all can become beneficial stewards of the land, and partners in the ecosystem in which we live, and I believe that by harvesting water—and more—we can all begin to transform our households and neighborhoods from being consumers of resources to generators—and even regenerators—of resources. Drawing on my years of teaching, consulting, designing, on-the-ground implementation, and learning from others, I offer readers my clear and simple process to assess and design their own harvesting systems at home and throughout their community.


Press on Brad and His Work

Additional Writings by Brad

Brad Lancaster’s 2015 Résumé

Brad’s Work with Municipalities

Videos about Brad and His Work

MOCA Local Genius Awards 2016

Free Water, a 2013 video by Andrew Brown, highlighting some of Brad’s water-harvesting work in his community

American Oasis, a 2013 pilot featuring Brad and others building on the Sonoran Desert region’s water-harvesting heritage and traditions

For more videos see this website’s video page

Drops in a Bucket Blog

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Upcoming Events

Also see the full list of upcoming events.

Umbrella Newsletter

The Umbrella: Winter 2015–16

A catch-all of resources,
events, media, and more
from Brad Lancaster
Winter 2015–16
What more meaningful way to celebrate the approaching SOLSTICE (Winter Solstice is December 21 this year in Tucson) than by engaging with, noticing, and highlighting the 23.44º tilt of the Earth? After all, this tilt is what gives us our seasonally changing sun […]

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