Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster

Archive for the 'Drops in a Bucket Blog' Category

New Full-Color Editions of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Win Book Awards

The new full-color, revised editions of Brad Lancaster’s books Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volumes 1 and 2 are Independent Press Award winners.

In addition, Volume 1 is a semi-finalist for a Chanticleer International Book Award, and Volume 2 is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award Montaigne Medal.

Volume 1, 3rd Edition won the Independent Press Award in the Home & Garden book category
https://www.independentpressaward.com/2020winners

Volume 2, 2nd Edition won the Independent Press Award in the Green book category.
https://www.independentpressaward.com/2020winners

Volume 1, 3rd Edition is a semi-finalist for the Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs) for Instructional and Insightful Non-Fiction.
https://www.chantireviews.com/…/the-semi-finalists-announc…/

Volume 2, 2nd Edition is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award Montaigne Medal – awarded to the most thought-provoking titles each year.
http://www.hofferaward.com/Montaigne-Medal-finalists.html

Get your signed copies today direct from me, the author, at deep discount at:
https://www.harvestingrainwater.com/shop/

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition now available in E-BOOK format

I just released the new, full-color, 3rd edition of Volume 1 in E-BOOK format.

This makes the book far more affordable for those outside the U.S., since there are no insanely costly international shipping costs.

This is also great for those who travel near and far, as it won’t take any additional physical space if uploaded to your phone, tablet, e-reader, and/or computer. I love having this book uploaded to my phone. Thus all of its incredible information and imagery is always in my pocket and right at my fingertips. And I can pull it out and get a concept across to a client, co-worker, or student at any time with one of the book’s illustrations, and assess a site’s water budget with the handy calculations.

 

Bonuses in this ebook edition:
Since the ebook does not have the page limitations and paper costs of a print book, this ebook edition includes the following, which is not in the print edition:

• Full, live-linked, List of Illustrations
• Expanded calculations appendix
• Full worksheets appendix
• Additional, revised images
• The ability to search any term, concept, or strategy in the book – far more comprehensive than a printed index

Additionally, I put a lot more time and money into the production of this ebook than most do, in order to make for a more pleasant reading experience for you. The main thing I did was relocate the images in the ebook so they appear at the end of the paragraph where they are first referenced. So the reference to an image within the text, and the image, are far more likely to appear on the same “page” of your screen.

In many ebooks where the publisher does not take as much care as I have, you need to do a lot more jumping back and forth between text and linked images (which are very often on different “pages” of the book than the text you are reading). This happens when the same layout of a print book is used for the layout of an ebook. But print books are meant to be read with two pages facing one another (where an image may be referenced in the text on one page, while appearing on the next facing page), while ebooks (read on mobile phones and tablets) are scrolled as you typically view a single “page” at a time.

So I customized the layout of my ebook for a smoother reading experience on any device — phone, tablet, or computer. I hope you enjoy the result.

 

To purchase and/or read the ebook edition
Please follow the links below for purchase of the ebook. (You can also request that your local library carry both the print and ebook editions).

Note that the ebook looks great on all the ebook platforms, but I personally prefer it on the Apple Books format, thus I’ve listed that link first.

Volume 1, 3rd Edition ebook via Apple Books

 

 

Volume 1, 3rd Edition ebook via Amazon Kindle

 

The ebook is also available from Barnes & Noble on their Nook e-readers, from independent book sellers on Kobo e-readers, Biblioteca, Tolino, and Baker & Taylor.

 

Please consider reviewing the book
For those of you who read and enjoyed the ebook – please consider writing a review where you got it (Apple Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.). Reviews help a lot in getting more awareness of, and interest in the books. And as I’m the publisher as well as the author, I really depend on you the readers to help me spread the word on the book and the practices they enable.

Thanks!

Turning Lifeless “Wastes” Into Verdant Water-Harvesting “Urbanite” Terraces in Baja, Mexico and Beyond

By Brad Lancaster © 2019
HarvestingRainwater.com

I love turning “wastes” into resources, thus I love the creative reuse of “urbanite” — the abundant “rock” of broken up chunks of discarded concrete rubble. And I love it even more when the urbanite is used to harvest water and soil in a way that supports the growth of abundant life and greater health.

Such is the case on the ranch of Monica Robinson Bours’ family in Baja, Mexico.

Upon reading the Terraces chapter of my book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, Monica realized this would be an ideal strategy to stabilize eroding slopes below the ranch house. And being an avid recycler/reuser she knew just where to get the material needed for the terraces’ retaining walls.

Years ago a nearby bridge on the highway had collapsed in a hurricane, and its concrete rubble had just been sitting at the site ever since. Monica knew it could be reused for something, and now she had that thing.

So, Monica and the ranch hands took the rubble back to the ranch, and built a series of beautiful terraces with urbanite retaining walls just below the house. The step-by-step building instructions from the Terraces chapter of my book were their guide. The terraces now stabilize the slope, capture runoff from the house roof and patio, and grow delightful shade for the outdoor gathering area and delicious fruit from the fruit trees (figure 1).

Figure 1. Water- and soil-harvesting terraces with retaining walls of salvaged urbanite from collapsed bridge. Photo by Monica Robinson Bours.

 

But things did not stop there.

 

In the nearest city of La Paz, Monica saw the transportation department demolishing large swaths of sidewalk in a road renovation project. So she turned that “waste” into a resource as well by again taking the rubble back to the ranch to build more terraces (figure 2).

Figure 2. Water- and soil-harvesting terraces with retaining walls of salvaged urbanite from demolished sidewalks. Photo by Monica Robinson Bours.

 

Then, following directions in the In-Channel Strategies chapter of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, Monica and the ranch hands built 1,600 additional structures within the watershed all slowing, spreading, and sinking the flow of water, where before it had too quickly and erosively been flowing away.

All has worked beautifully, and Monica was beaming with well-deserved pride when I had the honor of touring their wonderful work, after collaborating with her and the city of La Paz to create a street runoff water-harvesting demonstration site via a hands-on workshop (more on that in another blog essay to come).

 

Figure 3. Visiting with Monica and family as we pose with the terrace work. Monica is in white, long-sleeve shirt (second from right).

 

For more examples of how urbanite has been used to harvest water, such as how the La Loma Development Company in Pasadena, California has pulled over 16 million pounds (7 million kg) of concrete rubble from the waste stream to create exquisite high-craft water harvesting installations throughout Los Angeles, and how lifeless concrete-lined drainageways are being jack-hammered and retrofitted into verdant urbanite cobble infiltrationways, along with instructions enabling you to do the same) — see the newly released, dramatically revised, full-color edition of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition available at deep discount direct from me the author at https://www.harvestingrainwater.com/shop/

Or ask your local library and/or local bookstores to carry the book.

 

Potential, Challenges, and Resources for Condensate Harvesting

by Brad Lancaster (C) 2019, www.HarvestingRainwater.com

Top of the Austin City Hall air-conditioner-condensate waterfall

Bottom of the Austin City Hall air-conditioner-condensate waterfall

Condensate Harvesting is the harvest of water vapor in the air that freely condenses on cold surfaces at your site.

When water vapor in the air (humidity) comes into contact with a colder surface, the water changes from a gas to a liquid and collects on that colder surface. This water vapor in the air that becomes liquid is referred to as condensate. Common examples are the drops of condensate that form on the outside of a cold glass of iced tea on a humid day, or the condensate that forms on a metal roof in the cool early hours of a humid morning. Much more condensate typically collects on the cold coil of air conditioner and refrigerator units, which is often wastefully discarded via a drain or pipe (see photo below). The hotter and more humid the climate, and/or the more moisture (such as from respiring and perspiring people) in an air-conditioned building; the more condensate air conditioners, refrigerator units, ice machines, and freezers will discharge.

Air-conditioning condensate wastefully drained to sidewalk and street. Hatch, New Mexico

How much condensate does an air conditioner discharge:
In a dry climate or season:
• a home air conditioner can generate 0.25 gallons (1 liter) of condensate/day

• a large commercial air conditioner can generate 500 gallons (1,900 liters)/day

In a humid climate or season:
• a home air conditioner can generate 18 gallons (68 liters) of condensate/day

• a large commercial air conditioner can generate 1,000 gallons (3,750 liters) or more/day

Verdant, living-air conditioner-like tree, irrigated by the air conditioning condensate drained from the air conditioners it shades and cools. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

White drainpipe drains condensate to the root zone of native desert willow tree. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico


Quality of condensate
This condensate is basically distilled water, containing low amounts of minerals such as salt, but may contain bacteria. Condensate is great for watering plants, but don’t drink it unless you adequately treat the water. Comparatively, municipal or well water is often relatively high in salt — which can be toxic to plants and soil life — thus condensate can help dilute those salts, making for a healthier growing environment (though salt-free rainwater does an even better job of this).

How to harvest and use condensate
To irrigate with condensate simply direct the condensate (ideally with free gravity—no pumps) to vegetation. It typically should not puddle on the surface, but rather quickly infiltrate into the root zone of the plants to reduce the chance of mosquitoes, bacteria growth in the water, or water loss to evaporation. More organic matter, diverse soil life, and vegetation in the soil increase the rate of infiltration into the soil.

I like to plant a relative oasis of plants (local natives are the easiest to succeed with) at the “spring” where condensate discharge pipes outlet into the landscape. And I like to first route the pipes and outlet where such an oasis can provide the maximum benefits (such as passive cooling, a verdant entryway, etc.)

See the book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1 3rd Edition to estimate how much condensate your air conditioner may discharge, the water needs (expenses) of potential plants for your condensate “spring” to grow a sustainable oasis in balance with your free on-site waters’ budget (income), and how to situate vegetation for free summer cooling and winter heating of associated buildings and outdoor spaces.

Other free on-site waters can include rainwater, stormwater, snow, fog, greywater, and dark greywater. The new, full-color editions of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Volumes 1 and 2 show you how to harvest all of these to great effect, along with case studies of success.

Case study

Pearl Brewery, San Antonio, Texas

Water feature at Pearl Brewery in San Antonio, Texas supplied solely by roof runoff and air conditioning condensate from the brewery’s roof. Overflow water is directed to planted acequias (water channels for irrigation) that cool and beautify the landscape (see next photo). Design and photo by Ten Eyck Landscape Architects.

Planted acequias receiving roof runoff and air conditioning condensate just before they overflow to San Antonio River (seen in upper right quarter of photo). Design and photo by Ten Eyck Landscape Architects. Pearl Brewery, San Antonio, Texas.

The first condensate recovery systems in San Antonio have worked so well that San Antonio became the first city to require that all new commercial buildings design drain lines so that condensate capture is practical.

More info on this site’s condensate and rainwater harvesting at https://1703broadway.com/sustainability-design/water-conservation/
and
https://www.expressnews.com/news/local/politics/article/Pearl-area-complex-brings-cutting-edge-13810993.php

See the latest edition of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2 for more case studies of condensate harvesting.

Energy costs of condensate and other waters

Check out the energy costs of various sources of water, such as air conditioning (AC) condensate, in the chart below, excerpted from Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition.


The zero energy costs for various water sources reflected in the chart above typically result from harvesting those waters with no energy-consuming pumps or water treatment. Energy costs are incurred once pumps or mechanical water treatment is used. Or, in the case of AC condensate, the high energy cost does not reflect the use of pumps, but rather the large amount of energy the air conditioning unit itself consumes when on.Due to the high-energy cost of the manufacture and use of air conditioning units (and their harmful chemical refrigerants – see next section), I don’t consider their condensate to be a truly sustainable on-site water source (even if renewable energy is the power source). But if air conditioners are already on site and used, you ought to at least harvest and use their condensate in beneficial ways, rather than just wastefully drain it away.See appendix 9 of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition for charts and examples that show the water costs of different energy sources and the carbon costs of different energy sources in order to make more beneficial and informed choices in your life.

The refrigerant in air conditioners, refrigeration units, freezers, and ice machines is a major contributor to climate change

According the book Drawdown, the number one cause of climate changing gases in our atmosphere is the chemical refrigerants used in refrigerators and air conditioners.1

As reported in the book, Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer) by Stan Cox, “The air-conditioning of buildings in America is responsible for a quantity of carbon dioxide equivalent to what would be produced if every household in the country bought an additional vehicle and drove it an average 7,000 miles (11,200 km) per year.”2

This is horrifying due to the massive use and ever-expanding growth of the use of such appliances. But the main problem is not the appliances, but the chemical refrigerants used within them. And as history shows there is a path that could remedy this.

In the past, the chemical refrigerants (specifically chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] and hydrochlorofluorocarbons [HCFCs] used to absorb and release heat) in refrigerators and air conditioners used to deplete the ozone layer of our atmosphere. That ozone layer is essential for healthy life on our planet as it absorbs, and protects us from, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

Thanks to countries around the world agreeing to and signing, the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer; CFCs, HCFCs, and other ozone-depleting chemicals such as those that used to be used in aerosol cans and dry cleaning; have been phased out of use. As stated in the book Drawdown, “It took two short years from discovery of the gaping hole (in the ozone layer) over the Antarctic for the global community to adopt a legally mandated course of action. Now, three decades later, the ozone layer is beginning to heal.”3

The replacement chemical refrigerant to CFCs and HCFCs, is primarily hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which does not destroy the ozone layer, but HFCs’ capacity to warm the atmosphere is one thousand to nine thousand times greater than that of carbon dioxide!4

As Drawdown states, “In October 2016, officials from more than 170 countries gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to negotiate a deal to address the problem of HFCs. Despite challenging global politics, they reached a remarkable agreement. Through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the world will begin phasing HFCs out of use, starting with high-income countries in 2019 and then expanding to low-income countries — some in 2024, others in 2028. HFC substitutes are already on the market, including natural refrigerants such as propane and ammonium.”5

The Kigali Amendment took effect January 2019, and over 65 countries have ratified the agreement,6 but as of this writing the U.S. is not one of them.7

 

Take action
Communicate to your politicians and policy makers the importance of ratifying the Kigali Amendment; and make changes in your own lives, by reducing or eliminating your reliance on, and use of, appliances using HFC refrigerant (Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1 gives you many strategies to do this), and dispose of the refrigerant in a way that will keep it out of the atmosphere (Construction and Demolition: How to Properly Dispose of Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Equipment, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/ConstrAndDemo_EquipDisposal.pdf, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed 11-1-2019).

REFERENCES:

1. Paul Hawken – editor, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Penguin Books, 2017)

2. Stan Cox, Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer), (The New Press, 2010), page 41.

3. Paul Hawken – editor, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Penguin Books, 2017)

4. Paul Hawken – editor, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Penguin Books, 2017)

5. Paul Hawken – editor, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Penguin Books, 2017)

6. “Kigali Amendment Enters into Force, Bringing Promise of Reduced Global Warming,” by Faye Leone, SDG Knowledge Hub, January 9, 2018, https://sdg.iisd.org/news/kigali-amendment-enters-into-force-bringing-promise-of-reduced-global-warming/, accessed 11-1-2019

7. “What’s Keeping Trump from Ratifying a Climate Treaty Even Republicans Support?,” by Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News, February 12, 2019, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/12022019/kigali-amendment-trump-ratify-hfcs-short-lived-climate-pollutant-republican-business-support-montreal-protocol, accessed 11-1-2019

NOTE: This information will be expanded upon over time and will permanently reside at the link below:

Condensate Harvesting

Check back periodically for updates.

Additional Air-Conditioning Condensate-Harvesting Resources

Giveaway of Brad’s Newly Released Book, “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition”

I’m conducting the giveaway of signed copies of the full-color, 2nd edition of Volume 2 September 27 to October 10, 2019.

 

This giveaway is only for people with mailing addresses in the United States, and is done through the website GoodReads.

(Note: To get in the running, you’ll first need to become a member at www.GoodReads.com, but this is super quick and easy.)

Please sign up if you are interested!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd E... by Brad Lancaster
 

Enter Giveaway

 

The book is also available at deep discount direct from the author
Visit my on-line shop here

 

Review request
If you’ve read and enjoyed either of the new, full-color editions of my books just released this summer, please consider writing a review on the GoodReads site, Amazon, and/or any other such site, as this really helps the books get more exposure—which greatly helps to get the information and practice of harvesting and planting the rain, greywater, stormwater, condensate, and other free on-site waters further out into the world so we can regeneratively grow more abundance.

You can also use the following link to my GoodReads author page—or just enter my name in the GoodReads.com search box.

If all goes well, I’ll likely do another GoodReads giveaway in the near future, so check back.

Thanks so much for your interest and support!

-Brad

 

Giveaway of Brad’s Newly Released Book, “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition”

I’m conducting the giveaway of signed copies of the just-released, full-color, 3rd edition of Volume 1 beginning September 25, 2019.

This giveaway is only for people with mailing addresses in the United States, and is done through the website GoodReads.

(Note: To get in the running, you’ll first need to become a member at www.GoodReads.com, but this is super quick and easy.)

Please sign up if you are interested!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1 by Brad Lancaster

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1

by Brad Lancaster

Giveaway ends October 12, 2019.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

 

Enter Giveaway

The book is also available at deep discount direct from the author
Visit my on-line shop here

 

Review request
If you’ve read and enjoyed either of the new, full-color editions of my books just released this summer, please consider writing a review on the GoodReads site, Amazon, and/or any other such site, as this really helps the books get more exposure—which greatly helps to get the information and practice of harvesting and planting the rain, greywater, stormwater, condensate, and other free on-site waters further out into the world so we can regeneratively grow more abundance.

You can also use the following ling to my GoodReads author page—or just enter my name in the GoodReads.com search box.

If all goes well, I’ll likely do another GoodReads giveaway in the near future, so check back.

Thanks so much for your interest and support!

-Brad

 

Harvesting Rainwater for Hikers, Wildlife, Livestock, Oases, and More

By Brad Lancaster © 2019
HarvestingRainwater.com

I love water and seek it out when I hike—especially tinajas, natural water pools in the desert. Such ephemeral pools can be created with simple strategies in dry areas where they don’t already exist. Similarly, rainwater tanks coupled with small catchment roofs can provide water that can last year round; existing pools can be enhanced with simple rockwork; and the diversity and density of vegetation can be dramatically enhanced for wildlife and livestock with simple water-harvesting earthworks that divert water from areas where it is problematic (such as trails and roads) to adjoining areas where it can create a beneficial oasis. Interested?

Read on!

Natural pool and beach in the dry season. Seven Falls, Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona. In rainstorms the canyon mesas, walls, and rock are the catchment surfaces from which water flows to the pool. Bedrock bottom holds the water on the surface for months. Shaded location slows water loss to evaporation.

 

Rainwater catchment for otherwise fresh water-less areas

This year the Arizona Trail Association installed a pilot 1,500-gallon (5,600-liter) rainwater collector on a dry 21-mile segment of the cross-state trail that had previously been daunting for many hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians.

1,500-gallon (5,600-liter) rainwater cistern capped by a steel catchment roof, and installed by Arizona Trail Association volunteers August 2019 near a remote, and otherwise water-less stretch of the Arizona Trail.
Photo courtesy of the Arizona Trail Association.

According to the Arizona Trail Association,

“Covering the distance without any shade or water was previously prohibitive for those on horses as the animals require 5-7 gallons of fresh water per day. This passage had also been the site of many Search and Rescue operations when trail users got into trouble from dehydration and heat exhaustion. The system was designed by the Arizona Trail Association, and metalsmith Rob Bauer in consultation with sustainability professionals, land managers and engineers. It features a steel apron roof that catches rainwater and stores the precious resource within a tank that protected on all sides by steel panels. A spigot with an automatic shutoff valve allows trail users to fill and filter their water bottles. Once the tank is full, an overflow pipe fills a steel water trough nearby for the benefit of wildlife. Posted signs inform trail users that the water must be filtered before consumption.
  
The AZT Rainwater Collector is located ¼-mile east of the trail (near AZT mile 288.6 – Ajax Road). Since it is not visible while on the trail it doesn’t detract from the Arizona Trail’s scenic values. It sits at ground level and little disturbance was necessary for its installation, unlike wildlife water projects that require a large footprint and significant ground disturbance. The steel panel construction is literally bulletproof, and the structure also provides shade in an otherwise shadeless desert mountain range.
 
Water quality will be studied over a period of one year by University of Arizona students, and the results will be shared on the ATA website. Since rainwater is essentially distilled and the unit features a three-stage screen system, it’s unlikely any natural contaminants will find their way into the storage tank. The water never receives direct sunlight, so algae will not grow.

After studying this pilot project for one year, the ATA will consider fabricating and installating other Rainwater Collectors along the driest segments of the AZT.”

For more info on this system see https://aztrail.org/azt-rainwater-collector/

 

My first experience with human-made rainwater catchments along hiking trails was at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii.

Rainwater catchment and tank at campsite shelter Halape Beach, Halape and Hilina Pali trails, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii.

The simple catchments are spaced about 10 miles apart, and are located at primitive campsites accessible only by foot or sea. The harvested water was wonderful, and deepened my connection and appreciation to the place and this planet. I watched the sky to assess the weather, my water accessibility, and the incredible night sky where endless stars and the Milky Way continued from the sky into the reflective tranquil waters of the camp-side bay. I swam with sea turtles, explored the tide pools, and eventually hiked on to another rain-sourced oasis. It was a pleasure to know that the captured water was not extracted and pumped from elsewhere at great cost and its capture did not harm or deplete the local water cycle and environment.

See chapter three of the new full-color edition of my book “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition” for Ten Cistern System Principles that enable you to design and build more effective, multi-functional, high-quality water tank systems.

 

Creating and enhancing seep springs and ephemeral pools with simple water- and sediment-harvesting rockworks
My perception of the dry, rocky Tucson Mountains on the west side of Tucson, Arizona was forever transformed when Gail Hartman took me to what I like to call “Check Dam Creek”.

Check Dam Creek is a small ephemeral waterway with check dams hand-built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s from the top of the watershed to the bottom. Thanks to these check dams, water in this ephemeral creek or arroyo flows after good rains much longer than any other arroyo in this desert mountain range.

A filter/check dam built atop bedrock by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s with resulting spring. Water infiltrates the well-vegetated soil caught on the upslope side of the structure and slowly seeps along the bedrock below, before out letting on the downslope side of the structure. Note how progressively smaller material, from rocks to gravel, was placed against the upslope side of the filter dam’s large rocks to ensure smaller sediment does not erosively wash out between the large rocks. Tucson Mountains.
Reproduced with permission from “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition.”

Ephemeral seep springs have been created by a number of the structures, and a number of ephemeral pools have been deepened just downstream of some of the rockworks. There is one pool in particular that I love to dip into in the rainy season. Thanks to repeatedly submerging myself in this creek, drinking from the check dams’ seep springs, and snacking on the riprarian monkey flower plants growing along the flowing water, I now see the Tucson Mountains not as dry, but as water abundant. And I know that with the maintenance of these existing structures (many are in disrepair), and the creation of similar, but more-effective rockworks (see next section below) the abundance could be greatly enhanced by further slowing, spreading, and infiltrating (into soil and vegetation) stormwater, which otherwise too quickly flows out of this watershed and many others throughout the Tucson Mountains.

Check dam creek is an incredible historic site that can teach us much about what is, and what is not working, with these Civil Conservation Corps water-harvesting structures. It can inform and help us evolve even more effective strategies…

Floating in an ephemeral pool in check dam creek July 2017. Tucson Mountains.

 

Screen shot from Google Maps of check dam creek watershed (boundary marked with green line). Tucson Mountains, Tucson, Arizona. Note that lower part of watershed is private land.

 

Evolved and more effective rockworks
Bill Zeedyk, co-author of Let the Water Do the Work has been a wonderful mentor teaching me, and many others, how to greatly improve upon check dam structures with simpler and more wisely-placed one-rock dams, rock-lined plunge pools, cross-vanes and other structures that better work with the natural flow patterns of water and sediment.

I go into great detail on many of these evolutions and how you can better learn to see and work with natural flow patterns in the In-Channel Strategies chapter of the just-released full-color edition of my book “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition“.

These evolutions often result in smaller, easier to build, and longer-lasting structures. For example, rather than having high vertical walls like the check dams, from which water will more rapidly fall on the downstream side and create erosive scour holes (when there is no bedrock on the surface); the Zeedyk-inspired structures are lower, and have much more gradual-speed-hump-like slopes on the downslope side. So water and sediment moves more slowly and there is less likelihood of erosion and structure failure.

Elevation/side view of a one-rock dam. Key in the rocks on the first downslope row or two using the largest rocks to anchor the structure. These act as a footer and foundation, and function as a gradual and stable spillway. Avoid creating as steep waterfall-like drop from rock to bare soil where water flow could create a scour hole. Seed the structure with native grasses to speed establishment of anchoring vegetation. To strengthen the structure before it naturally backfills, backfill it manually with small rock and/or gravel if these are available.
Reproduced with permission from “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition.”

 

A cross-vane rock structure (keyed into bedrock on left side of photo and native boulders on the right) controlling a headcut that used to erode the edge of the road, while creating a scour pool that clears sediment and collects water for wildlife, people, and livestock. Rock work moving up the banks and curved downstream lessens depth of water along banks, reducing the water flow’s erosive force, which might otherwise erode the around the structure. Water spilling over ends of the structure (in big flow events), along the creek banks, is directed into the pool below the structure. The pooled water diffused the force of the incoming water, while enhancing water availability for wildlife and livestock. Designed by Bill Zeedyk. Hand-built by Pima County road crew in 2007. Altar Valley, Arizona.
Reproduced with permission from “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition.”

 

Earthworks that harvest water within living soils to grow more vegetation, habitat, food, shelter, and more
Redirecting water from surfaces where it is a liability—trails and dirt roads—to where it is a productive resource—adjoining gently sloped, vegetated land—can produce living oases of “green water” (water within soil and vegetation) which create more effective sponges that can rapidly absorb water and help recharge groundwater, while reducing downstream flooding and erosion.

Dirt roads are typically the biggest maintenance cost in rural areas as they lack vegetation that would otherwise stabilize the bare, erosion-prone soil. Poor dirt road placement, construction, and maintenance practices typically result in a dirt road lower than the surrounding landscape, more water flows into and along the dirt road causing mud bogs, dehydration of the land and vegetative die off on the downslope side of the road, increasing erosion, more maintenance needs, higher costs, and other problems.

Rolling dips are one strategy to remedy this. Unlike roadside drains alone, which can be bypassed by water that flows in wheel ruts, a rolling dip is a wide cross-drain system with a dip drain in the road, a wide lead-out ditch to the side of the road, and a wide roll-out berm on the road that forces the water into the drain and ditch.

Note: in the rolling dip context, lead-out sponge may be a better term than lead-out ditch since its purpose is to maximize the spread and infiltration of water in the landscape (not the road). This is why it is ideally wide and shallow, not narrow and deep, and is directed to vegetation—not a gully.

Blue water flow arrow denotes flow diverted off a road in a rolling dip. Dashed line denotes the boundaries of the roll-out berm, which prevents water from continuing to flow down the road. Bill Zeedyk (with white beard) stands where the water flows from the dip drain into the lead-out ditch. Elkhorn Ranch, Altar Valley, Arizona.
Reproduced with permission from “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition.”

 

Van Clothier shows how the native grasses have grown waist high where they receive road runoff inputs from a rolling dip’s lead-out ditch placed in a “best chance” location where water flow can do maximum good and the least harm. Elkhorn Ranch, Altar Valley, Arizona. See AltarValleyConservation.org for more on their water-harvesting projects.
Reproduced with permission from “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition.”

 

For much more on how to effectively place, design, and implement the strategies discussed here

See the just released, full-color, revised editions of Brad’s award-winning books

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition

and

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, 2nd Edition.

 

 

And see the following related Drop in a Bucket blog essays by Brad:

Harvesting Rock Water and More in Kenya

Rainwater Harvesting in Puglia, Italy

Finally, an Easy-to-Permit Three-Way Valve for Greywater-Harvesting Systems

by Brad Lancaster © 2018
www.HarvestingRainwater.com

Greywater harvesting—the practice of directing the drain water from household sink, bathtub, shower, and clothes washers to your landscape plantings—can lead to big water savings. It turns “waste” water into a free, on-site “resource” water. It also enables you to mimic the planet’s hydrologic cycle by using, or cycling, water again and again in a way that naturally improves its quality, making it available for many more uses and able to generate and sustain more life.

To ensure I capitalize on this I have a rule: I don’t plant a higher-water-use plant such as an exotic fruit tree until I’ve first planted (or harvested) both rainwater and greywater where I want that tree (see my book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2 for how I do this, or how to retrofit an existing system). That way free waters take care of my irrigation needs.

Thanks to the lead of Arizona’s greywater guidelines, many other states have similarly legalized the harvest of greywater as long as simple, common-sense guidelines are followed. Oftentimes, this includes the use of three-way diverter valves or a multi-drain system (see the greywater-harvesting chapter of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2, for more) that enables you to direct your greywater either to the landscape or the sewer/septic, based on what you send down the drain or how saturated or frozen your soils are.

The City of Tucson even requires that all new homes be built with greywater-harvesting stub outs.

But one hang-up, until now, has been finding a three-way diverter valve rated and approved specifically for use for drain water / greywater. Many have used three-way valves, such as the Jandy valve, made and approved for other uses with success. But sometimes the use of those valves has been denied for permitted systems due to their lack of being UPC-listed and IAPMO-tested and -approved.

Thankfully, the new FLO2 diverter valves are UPC-listed and IAPMO-tested and -approved for use in drain, waste, and vent-pipe applications. Thus they are approved for permitted greywater-harvesting systems.

The FLO2 valve — UPC-listed and IAPMO-tested and -approved for use in drain, waste, and vent-pipe applications. Thus legal for permitted greywater-harvesting systems.

Another nice advantage of the FLO2 valve is it has a 90-degree adapter, which enables you to extend its handle to whatever length you need. Thus the valve could be hooked up to your bathtub drain beneath the floor in your bathroom, yet the handle could be conveniently accessible within the bathroom.

FLO2 valve with 90-degree adapter attached

See here for more images comparing the FLO2 valve to the Jandy valve.

See here for examples of, and reasons why I love, convenient three-way valve installations.

See here and my books below for more greywater- and other water-harvesting resources and options.

Happy Harvesting!

Historic Rainwater-Harvesting Systems at the Shrine of Santa Rita in Vail, Arizona

by Brad Lancaster © 2017
www.HarvestingRainwater.com

 

Southern Arizona has a rich water-harvesting history that is too often forgotten or lost. Though sometimes gems are dusted off, unearthed, remembered, or even celebrated—and they can inspire and inform us in both the present and future.

One such example is this Saturday’s event at the old Vail, Arizona, post office and Shrine of Santa Rita.

Fig. 0. Vail Store and Post Office, ca. 1935. Image courtesy of the Vail Preservation Society.

The old post office in Vail operated for decades without its own source of water. During that time it was dependent on the trains for bringing in water as, according to local historian J.J. Lamb, there was no well at the town site until 1992. The Santa Rita Shrine on the other side of the street, however, captured the rain falling on its roofs and landscape.

Fig. 1. Shrine of Santa Rita. Below-ground cistern is behind the low wall on the left.

Built in 1934, the shrine captures rainfall from its terracotta tile roof and, via a gutter-and-downspout system and an underground pipe, directs that water to a 8-foot-diameter, 10-foot-deep, concrete-lined underground cistern on the east side of the shrine. Its storage capacity is approximately 3,700 gallons; it was half full when we inspected it. The top of the cistern has a 3-foot-high ring that used to be covered by an ornate roof designed to look like an old well from which water was accessed with a rope and bucket.

We could not find a separate overflow pipe when inspecting the system; it’s possible the overflow might be through the screen box.

Two other systems can be found southeast of the shrine. The shrine staff told us that the smaller, 12-foot-diameter cistern (11,380-gallon capacity) captures water from roofs, similar to the shrine’s roof-catchment system; it had ample water at the time of inspection (observed via a hole in the cistern’s roof). The second, larger 20-foot-diameter cistern (42,600-gallon capacity) captures runoff from the landscape.

Again, it seems both tanks’ overflow might be through their inlet screen boxes, as we could not find other overflow routes. (Though we’d likely have had better luck if we could have viewed the cisterns from the inside. The day of inspection the locks could not be unlocked. But the locks have since been replaced, so inspection is now possible with shrine staff.)

I love touring such old sites, and then figuring out how they worked—or in this case, still work. Seeing what did/does work well, and what may not, informs better practices in the present.

Unlike wells that extract groundwater, or pumps and canals that divert surface flow, these rainwater-harvesting systems do not deplete the flow of the nearby Cienega Creek Natural Preserve. Instead, they help enhance those flows by not extracting from our groundwater or creeks in the first place.

While I love these systems, there is a key piece missing: passive water-harvesting earthworks or rain gardens. There is huge potential for such passive systems capturing runoff from other roofs—such as the old Vail Post Office roof— as well as from streets, parking lots, sidewalks, footpaths, the overflow from cisterns, and even putting-green runoff. Each of these hardscape surfaces could direct its runoff water to adjoining mulched and vegetated basins or rain gardens that could then grow native, food-bearing trees to shade and cool the convex or hard surfaces from which they got their water. Water not used by the native plants will infiltrate below their root zone, helping recharge the groundwater.

Fig. 12. Google Maps screenshot of Vail, AZ. Shrine of Santa Rita is flagged in upper left. Cienega Creek Natural Preserve is to the right of the shrine. Note where the dense green vegetation in the creek bed stops near right-hand side of the image. That is where a historic dam site diverts the creek’s flow out of the creek to irrigate what used to be the Rancho del Lago and its farm, but today is the Del Lago Golf Club, which now uses the diverted creek water to irrigate its grass. About 20% of Tucson’s groundwater comes from the Cienega Creek watershed.

By planting, harvesting, or infiltrating the rainfall (rather than draining it) this site and many others could naturally and regeneratively grow more sustainable abundance—living oases irrigated with nothing more than the rain.

We’ll talk about how you can do this at the workshop this Saturday—come join us!

And the books in my Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond series are the best guides out there.

Bandsar Agriculture: Indigenous Runoff-Harvesting & Climate-Change Resilience from Iranian Drylands

This blog entry was graciously provided by J. Tabatabaee Yazdi, who hosted me when I presented at the Iranian Rainwater Catchment Systems Association conference in 2014. You can see my writings and photos on that trip and the amazing traditional water-harvesting practices I witnessed here.

My time in Iran was incredible, but too short. I wanted to see and learn more, for I love the inspiration and learning that come from observing traditional water-harvesting innovation and practices from similar climates. Thankfully, Javad and his colleagues have continued to enlighten me with correspondence and publications, including the following paper, which Javad offered to be shared on my website, www.HarvestingRainwater.com.

 

by J. Tabatabaee Yazdi (Corresponding author), Faculty member (retired), Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization, Founder and former president of Iranian Rainwater Catchment Systems Association. Email: tabatabaee_j@yahoo.com

and

A. Aliabadi, Senior engineer, Khorasan Agriculture and Natural Resources Research Center, Ministry of Jahad-e-Keshavarzi, P.O. Box 91735-488, Mashhad, Iran. Email: aliabadi@kannrc.ir

Abstract
Iranians have a very long history of harvesting water to address water scarcity and the consequences of frequent drought. One widespread indigenous water-harvesting practice is bandsar, which has been utilized in the central and southern part of the Khorasan province (northeast Iran and beyond, see figure 1). Bandsar is a Persian term for a series of consecutive bands, berms, levees, or dikes. A bandsar consists of a series of levees constructed along contour lines adjacent to an ephemeral stream so that occasional floodwater flows can be diverted from the stream into the field(s) of the bandsar system. The water is temporarily stored on the upstream side of the levees and gradually infiltrates into the soil profile; the accumulated moisture can be used for cultivation. Bandsar agriculture has been found to be unique and very sustainable in regards to several key factors, including owners’ participation, land-use, and water-resource management. A field survey has been conducted in the suburbs of Sabzevar (57o 4’E, 36o 12’N), an area widely covered with bandsars, some of which are still being used in the present time. Bandsar components, construction methods, operation, and maintenance have been studied and are summarized here based on information gathered from field observation and in-person interviews with some of the most experienced bandsar owners.

Keywords: Bansdar, floodwater, runoff, agriculture, indigenous knowledge

yazdi-fig-1

Figure 1. The range of annual precipitation (in millimeters per year) across Iran

Introduction
Floodwater irrigation has been practiced in most arid and semi-arid zones of Iran and many other countries with a similar climate (Ghoddousi, 1999). Among the many methods used worldwide, bandsar is the most specific type of floodwater harvesting, which has been utilized in the eastern part of Iran. Bandsar is composed of several earthen levees constructed successively along level contour lines next to a seasonal stream from which floodwater flows can be diverted via a conveyance channel into the fields of the bandsar (figures 2 through 7). The incoming water spreads behind the levees so that the resulting backwater causes sufficient increase in soil moisture to sustain compatible cultivation.

yazdi-fig-2

Figure 2. Satellite image of bandsar location along a seasonal stream in the study area. Bright tone indicates sedimentation deposited within the bandsars (Arabkhedri, 2015).

 

Figure 3. Closer view of ephemeral streams and adjoining bandsar fields from Google Earth

Figure 3. Closer view of ephemeral streams and adjoining bandsar fields from Google Earth

 

Figure 4. Bandsar components: 1) Main stream, 2) Inlet, 3) Conveyance channel, 4) Levee, 5) Subsidiary weir, 6) Levee's end weir, 7) Subsidiary wall (Arabkkhedri, 2015)

Figure 4. Bandsar components: 1) Main stream, 2) Inlet, 3) Conveyance channel, 4) Levee, 5) Subsidiary weir, 6) Levee’s end weir, 7) Subsidiary wall (Arabkkhedri, 2015)

 

Figure 5. The incoming water spreads behind levees so that the resulting backwater causes sufficient increase in soil moisture to sustain compatible cultivation

Figure 5. The incoming water spreads behind levees so that the resulting backwater causes sufficient increase in soil moisture to sustain compatible cultivation

 

Figure 6. Deposited sediment (light color) in bandsar improves both soil texture and fertility

Figure 6. Deposited sediment (light color) in bandsar improves both soil texture and fertility

 

Figure 7. Selection of crop depends on the timing and volume of the flooding event

Figure 7. Selection of crop depends on the timing and volume of the flooding event

Some kinds of bandsars receive runoff directly from the upstream watershed only when the possible peak-discharge volumes will not endanger the bandsar’s stability (Nazari Samani et al, 2014). In these instances, conveyance channel and diversion work are no longer needed, as floodwater can flow directly behind the levees to be stored with minimum care and efforts.

Water in excess of a bandsar’s capacity is directed into the next section (i.e., the next bandsar) through the end of the previous bandsar. The number and dimensions of bandsars are determined based on ground slope and floodwater-harvesting potential. It is usually anticipated that a certain number of bandsars can be filled up completely or partially depending on individual flood characteristics. Flooded areas are plowed and cultivated, while the sections of bandsar fields that did not receive runoff water remain untouched and unplanted until other storms provide enough runoff to wet their soils. When the next flood flow occurs, experienced owners may be also able to consider supplementary irrigation for those parts of the fields already irrigated from the previous storm’s harvested flood flow. In general, stream-flow hydrology and geomorphology would be very influential for selecting bandsar location, mainly because a minimum volume of available annual floodwater should be guaranteed (figure 5).

Construction method
Construction of a bandsar starts with the landowners visually benchmarking the levees and channel direction, often supervised by more experienced local farmers (figure 8). The selected levee location is plowed and loosened to generate enough soil to create and compact an earthen levee about one meter high. The conveyance channel starts from one end of the first levee and continues upstream, parallel to the main stream channel until they cross each other at the level of the bottom of the stream channel. This would be the floodwater diversion point, or conveyance-channel inlet. When the first flood occurs, the water is diverted from the main stream and flows through the conveyance channel to pool behind the bandsar’s levees. At this stage, the owners start implementing any needed modifications of the levees and channel direction and structures. Locally available plants are often used along the interior toes of the conveyance channel to prevent possible erosion. Compared to areas with sandy soils, bandsar fields in areas with clay soil should be larger because of slower water penetration. The slope of the conveyance channel is designed so as not to cause too much sedimentation or erosion along the channel bank. One large channel is divided into smaller ones along the diversion route toward bandsars located farther from the main stream.

Figure 8. Experienced bandsar farmers

Figure 8. Experienced bandsar farmers

Operation of bandsar
Irrigation starts at the uppermost bandsar. Excess runoff is diverted to each downstream bandsar via the levee at the end of the closest upstream bandsar. Plowing and sowing starts as soon as the water has infiltrated into the soil profile and appropriate equipment and machinery can move and work within the bandsar. A subsidiary berm or dike divides a bandsar into smaller fields, guaranteeing that at least the field closest to the inlet will receive enough water for cultivating—even if there is not enough floodwater to irrigate the other fields of the bandsar. Because of the typically short duration of flood flow, most bandsar owners will be at their site if they think there will be enough rain to generate runoff flow. Bunches of weeds and grasses will have already been collected and deposited at the diversion point to be used for controlling optimum discharge into the conveyance channel.

The selection of crop type to be cultivated in a bandsar depends on the timing of the first flood flow. If runoff happens in autumn, wild annuals (figure 9) and barley may the best, whereas when the first rain and flooding occurs in the winter time, caraway and pea would be the better choice. If spring flood flows occur, all kinds of melon may the most beneficial crop type (figure 10). One should note that the rainy season in Mediterranean regions (like Iran) starts in late autumn (October) and ends mid-spring (April), with no rain the rest of the year. Sediments carried within the floodwater flow are deposited within the bandsars. These freely deposited sediments often include enough rich organic material (animal dung, seed, leaves, etc) that no additional fertilization of the fields will be needed (Ashouri, 2000). In some cases, when bandsar soil becomes too fertile, it becomes unsuitable for some sensitive crops such as wheat, but hardier barley can still be grown.

 

Figure 9. During drought periods bandsar owners collect, mince, and bind wild annuals grown in bandsar fields to be used for animal feed during winter time

Figure 9. During drought periods bandsar owners collect, mince, and bind wild annuals grown in bandsar fields to be used for animal feed during winter time

 

Figure 10. Melons irrigated solely with passively harvested runoff in bandsar field

Figure 10. Melons irrigated solely with passively harvested runoff in bandsar field

Maintenance
Because bandsars are usually constructed manually, many breakages and holes, as well as bank and bottom erosion and sedimentation, may occur due to water overtopping the berms or water flowing though animal burrows in the berms. Therefore, bandsars should be inspected and repaired carefully each year before and throughout the rainy season. Accumulated sediments and excessively eroded sections should be leveled to ensure the most-uniform water distribution within the bandsar. Animal burrows and wall breaks should be blocked and recompacted. Making use of fine-grained sediments transported to the bandsar, owners usually spend some time and effort improving levees’ stability and increasing bandsar capacity. Sediment in excess of what is used for bandsar repair work can be carried away from bandsar to be used as impervious material for construction purposes.

Economy of the bandsar
Using the bandsar system, crop-yield efficiency can be improved considerably compared to dry-farmed agriculture that does not incorporate passive water-harvesting strategies. This is because water harvesting significantly prolongs soil-moisture availability. After the initial investment for bandsar construction, the cost of operation and maintenance is negligible; therefore bandsar farmers’ incomes can be very competitive with those of farmers who practice conventionally irrigated agriculture (with its costs of pumping/importing water and fertilizer). This is despite the fact that bandsar agriculture can be affected by short- and long-term drought periods. Incomes from productive good years with good runoff flows usually compensate for the failures that happen during drought periods (Rahi et al., 2007).

Obstacles and difficulties
Bandsar agriculture is threatened by the following problems:

  • Climate change resulting in severe irregularities in floodwater flows in terms of magnitude, duration, and frequency.
  • Aging of original bandsar owners—new generations do not tend to follow in their parents’ footsteps.
  • Migration of bandsar owners from villages into larger towns and cities, looking for higher living standards and incomes.
  • Increasing sand- and gravel-mining operations have caused degradation of stream beds and stream flows so that water diversion may no longer be affordable.

Countermeasure
The government should seriously support bandsar agriculture by allocating appropriate incentives for the owners as well as establishing supportive legislation to prevent degradation of the areas where bandsars are concentrated.

Acknowledgment
This paper is a summary of the report conducted by the authors under the financial support received by the Iranian Rainwater Catchment System Association (IRCSA).

 

References

Arabkhedri, M., 2015, Floodwater Agriculture Using Bandsar. Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Research Institute, Iran. Publication forthcoming.

Arabkhedri, M. and Kamail, K., 2008, Traditional Techniques of Soil and Water Conservation in Iran. Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Research Institute, of Iran. Technical report, p. 107.

Ashouri, A., 2000, Effects of Flood Harvesting on Chemical and Fertility Attributes of Soil in Bandsar. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Tehran, (Iran).

Ghoddousi, J., 1999, Introduction of Flood Spreading Methods and Its Application. Paper presented at the First Workshop on Flood Management and Application, p 226.

Nazari Samani, A.A., Khalighi, S., Arabkhedri, M. and Farzadmehr, J., 2014, Indigenous Knowledge and Techniques of Runoff Harvesting (Bandsar and Khooshab) in Arid and Semi Arid Regions of Iran. J. Water Resource and Protection, 6 (8), p. 784-789.

Rahi, Gh., Ghoddousi, J., Fakhri, F., Tosi, T. and Nazari Samani, A., 2007, Social and Economic Assessment of Traditional and Modern Soil and Water Conservation Measures in Bushehr Province. Proc. 4th National Conference on Science and Technology of Watershed Management in Iran, Karaj.

 

For more water-harvesting case studies and detailed how-to information, buy, read, and share these award-winning books:

   

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THE UMBRELLA: A catch-all of resources, events, media, and more from Brad Lancaster   Rain Planting E-BOOK now available! Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition now available in E-BOOK format Plant the Rain gifts Get holidays gifts that spread the word and practice on how we can make the world a […]

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