Stuff I wrote elsewhere: rainwater harvesting, the bounding scenario

In water policy terms, this is one of the most important stories I’ve done in a while:

The steady dripping into Carl Axness’ cistern is the sound of next spring’s water supply.

The snow melting from his Rio Rancho roof is the bounty of December’s storms. For the better part of four years, that roof runoff has provided the entire source of supply for Axness and his family.

It’s not that I expect everyone to follow Carl’s path. His situation is unique in a couple of ways. The first is the way his Rio Rancho lot was bypassed by water infrastructure. The second is Carl himself – an energetic tinkerer, willing to fiddle to make his off-the-water-grid life possible. It’s obviously not for everyone. But I think of him as a sort of bounding scenario for what is possible when we’re faced with apocalyptic visions of life in the Southwest with dwindling water supply and growing population. Carl’s a living demonstration that it is possible to live with far less developed water than we use today. Given a choice between apocalyptic abandonment of Phoenix or Las Vegas or Albuquerque as water supplies run low or the widespread adoption of some part of the suite of things Carl’s doing (especially for outdoor watering, which is far less finicky), it seems clear to me what we’ll see.


  1. Can’t happen here! Especially if easterners keep moving out and wanting big lawns and hollyhocks.

    Srsly, much can be done with landscaping to save water.



  2. I know of at least 3 houses here in Tucson solely relying on rainwater. I wonder if Mr. Axness had to finance the construction of his home. I strongly doubt that most lenders would provide a mortgage on a home that has no reliable (in their view) water supply. The one person in Tucson who built their home with rainwater harvesting has a back-up well, but he thinks the lender probably overlooked the fact that he was installing a cistern for his water supply. As for building any kind of subdivision (requiring various approvals from local and state governments) that gets its water from the sky I just don’t see it happening right now – and that’s a big obstacle to more widespread adoption. And the potential inability of a buyer to get financing to purchase a home without piped water or a well is another big hindrance.

  3. Chris – Your point’s well taken regarding the current impracticality of the full-on version of what Carl’s doing. But clearly the problems you mention are no impediment to outdoor use, which is where the bulk of our consumptive use is happening. I guess for me the reason this stands as a bounding scenario is that, when we approach the point where supplies get genuinely limited and the alternative is abandoning Tucson, I think you’ll see the obstacles diminish.

  4. Pingback: Rain Water Harvesting In Rio Rancho on Greg In The Desert

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