Saving the Desert (and SaddleBrooke) with Rainwater

Howard Cohen, co-president of the SaddleBrooke Nature Club (right), presents a donation to Catlow Shipek (left) intended for the Watershed Management Group, following the January 10 lecture.

Howard Cohen, Co-President, SaddleBrooke Nature Club

What can we do about the decreasing supply of water in our desert?

Catlow Shipek spoke to the SaddleBrooke Nature Club about reversing the loss of water from an area that previously had adequate soil and water and vigorous native plant growth based on rainwater.

Catlow Shipek is a founding and active member of the Watershed Management Group. He has 10 years of experience in applied watershed management, urban water harvesting, green infrastructure, stream restoration, and eco-sanitation, and he is on the advisory board of the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment. His passion is to link people to their local environment by careful use of the water supply and informed harvesting of rainwater so that it produces more plant growth and returns to our area the running streams that have been lost.

Mr. Shipek’s work in river restoration has attracted professionals from the U.S. and Europe to come learn more about water harvesting design. He explained to us how our community, and other communities in this area, were designed to cause water runoff, rather than retention, in order to prevent flooding during monsoon season. He explained that the designs did what they were intended to do, but they did not take into account that the water loss would lead to the loss of good soil, streams, and plants that are vital to maintaining the natural habitat that most of us cherish. He explained how to delay rainwater runoff so that there is soil buildup and plant growth producing a sponge effect, so that future rainfall did not run off as fast or as much. The bottom line was the vegetative response, which, in the long run, maintained the environment.

Catlow Shipek says the goal of restoring the plants and streams and the natural habitat can be achieved by the balance between water use and water return cycle.

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