By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
You might be fascinated to know you can capture rainfall falling in sheets to use later as irrigation water for your lawn and garden. What comes down doesn’t all need to run down the yard, into the street, and go into stormwater drains. With some planning and small changes to your landscaping, you can guide the water around your yard and “bank” it in swales or capture it with a traditional rain barrel.
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) models passive rainwater harvesting at its administration building’s Demonstration Garden at 680 N. Motel Boulevard.
“Passive rainwater harvesting is modifying your landscaping to hold onto the water longer,” said Rhonda Diaz, LCU Water conservation program coordinator.
You build pathways for the rain to stick around instead of draining away, giving it a chance to really soak into the soil.
At LCU, there are berms - think long, small hills – built into the soil of the Demonstration Garden to guide rainwater that comes off Motel Boulevard. Those berms direct the water into a holding pond to soak into the surrounding garden. The location is open to the public and also shows a bunch of different plants, shrubs, and trees that are drought-tolerant and require less watering.
Las Cruces resident Dr. joni newcomer (sic) has a different setup at her home. She uses rain barrels to catch rainwater runoff from her roof making it an active rainwater harvesting system. Her barrels are placed strategically to capture the water which irrigates different sections of her yard. The barrels also have a top to make sure mosquitoes don’t make generations of families, and a spout where she can attach a hose.
“Most people would be surprised to see how much rain accumulates in these barrels in one storm,” Newcomer said. “It’s all water easily reused on your garden instead of it going through the city’s system. It’s perfectly good for your plants.”
Rain barrels are available in the garden departments at home improvement stores including Walmart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot. Each is constructed with a top and a spout for a one-time investment ranging from $70 to $100.
Anyone interested in learning more about local gardening tips from LCU’s Water Conservation Program can visit the Demonstration Garden and access the Demonstration Garden Guide, which is full of tips and photos on plants and trees that thrive in Las Cruces. The guide can be found online at http://www.las-cruces.org/1916/demonstration-garden.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 575/528-3500 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
Building a rainwater harvesting swale to “bank” runoff rainwater at the LCU Demonstration Garden, 680 N. Motel Boulevard. Utilizing rainwater saves dollars compared to watering lawns and gardens from a hose with drinking-quality water. The Garden is open to the public to show how residents and businesses might modify their own landscaping.
NOTE: This story was recently published in the Las Cruces Bulletin.