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  Ecoversity: Recent Books of Note
Harvest the Rain
How to Enrich Your Life by Seeing Every Storm as a Resource
by Nate Downey; illus. by George Lawrence
A guest review by T.R. Knoblauch

I am a big fan of Nate Downey, especially with the publication of his most recent book, Harvest The Rain. He writes cogently about a subject he knows well after 18 years of professional experience. His monthly columns in the Santa Fe New Mexican Real Estate Guide have sparkled with his knowledge and good sense of humor, and readers will find the same enjoyment in Harvest The Rain, which is not just a how-to book about water catchment but a testament to Downey's passion for the subject.
Downey writes with insight and enthusiasm to encourage us to feel the respect all cultures have historically felt for rain. It is, after all, a basis of human culture. For millennia, people relied on rainwater harvesting to supply water for household, landscape, livestock, and agricultural uses. Harvesting water by the river was easy but when cultures moved further away from flowing water they had to devise methods to survive. Before wells and the relatively recent advent of large centralized water supply systems, rainwater was collected from roofs and canals; then stored in cisterns.
With the development of large, somewhat reliable water treatment and distribution systems and reliable affordable well drilling equipment, rain harvesting became a second thought, even though it offered a source of pure water.
A renewed interest in this time-honored approach of collecting water has emerged globally because of escalating environmental and economic costs of providing water by centralized water systems or by well drilling. The health benefits of soft de-mineralized rainwater and potential cost savings associated with rainwater collection systems have encouraged this interest.
Downey makes clear how all of us can bring about serious improvements over current wasteful systems of water delivery while enriching our lives while doing so. "Harvest the Rain" covers the use of cisterns, gray water and various landscape designs that make the most use of every drop of water landing on it. Lucid illustrations by George Lawrence demonstrate the described concepts throughout the book.
Nate Downey, Harvest the Rain Downey has been a permaculture landscape designer and installer for 18 years and for 12 a permaculture columnist for the Santa Fe New Mexican Real Estate Guide in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In "Harvest the Rain" he advises patience in the process of implementing a rain-harvesting landscape; it takes time. He urges us to realize "harvesting the rain is fun."
Downey outlines the many benefits of water harvesting. It saves otherwise distributed water; it grows beautiful, stronger trees providing shade, fruit and pleasure; and, most importantly for some, it increases property value. In his book, he offers an extensive assortment of information to make homes and yards green and beautiful by choosing the appropriate plantings for the application, physical landscaping infrastructure for erosion control and irrigation, cover crops, composting and use of shade. These are all methods of harvesting the rain without using cisterns.
"Harvest the Rain" explains the technical side of water harvesting for gardening, landscape design and, even for those with limited time and, more recently, a lower-than-expected budget. He repeats often: "convenience, return on investment, empowerment, and pleasure." He sees more people, partially in response to the current economic downturn, focusing on water use in their homes and their neighborhoods. He advises you to implement your catchment plans as you can afford both the money and the time.
In "Harvest the Rain" Downey shows how digging, preparing soils and mulches, composting, cutting swales, and sowing and planting, can meet high standards of catchment by conservation. Make the water travel across the landscape in a serpentine manner, the more contact with the earth the more the captured water is utilized. He encourages food crops in the home landscape and practices what he preaches (there are fewer pleasures greater than stepping out the door to pick the vegetables, greens and herb for a fresh meal.) If you follow Downey's timeless advice you will improve the utility and beauty of your home and neighborhood in ways that provide pleasure and sates the thirst that harms the environment. Your footprint on the earth will be lightened and your life will be enhanced.
(Full disclosure, the author and I are good friends and I am quoted in the book, I also helped the author in the initial stages of publication planning.)
TR Knoblauch

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