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Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond (Vol. 1): Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain Into Your Life and Landscape

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Turn water scarcity into water abundance!

"Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition" is the best-selling, award-winning guide on how to conceptualize, design, and implement life-enhancing water-, sun-, wind-, and shade-harvesting systems for your home, landscape, and community. This book enables you to assess your on-site resources, gives you a diverse array of strategies to maximize their potential, and empowers you with guiding principles to create an integrated, multi-functional plan specific to your site and needs.

Clearly written with more than 290 illustrations, this full-color edition helps bring your site to life, reduce your cost of living, endow yourself and your community with skills of self-reliance and cooperation, and create living air conditioners of vegetation growing beauty, food, and wildlife habitat. Stories of people who are successfully welcoming rain into their life and landscape will invite you to do the same.

183 pages, Paperback

Published January 1, 2006

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About the author

Brad Lancaster

4 books60 followers
Brad Lancaster has taught, designed, and consulted on regenerative-design systems of permaculture and integrated water-harvesting systems in seven countries since 1993. He created and lives on a thriving solar-powered 1/8th-acre (0.05-ha) urban oasis in downtown Tucson, Arizona, which harvests 100,000 gallons (378,000 liters) of rainwater a year where just 12 inches (280 mm) falls from the sky. Brad's dynamic books, talks, workshops, and living example have inspired tens of thousands of people to 'plant the rain' to sustainably grow their local resources. Visit his website at HarvestingRainwater.com.

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5 stars
297 (64%)
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108 (23%)
3 stars
45 (9%)
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7 (1%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for Dave Riley.
Author 2 books10 followers
March 25, 2011
After reading a lot of literature on permaculture and rainwater harvesting I think this manual is the best I've read on this specific subject .Much of the new ecological gardening and house design literature is schematic even etherial. Lancaster, in contrast, is absolutely concrete and considerate of likely practical issues. He knows his stuff and is so very generous is sharing his experience and knowledge with the reader.

In fact, I consider that on the subject of design and earthworks he is an original thinker and his ideas warrant serious study.

The only thing missing, in my estimation, is a discussion on different soils and their varying water holding attributes. That also begs the question of irrigation design beyond the 'harvest" stage. While the book is pitched to engineer passive harvesting and direction of rainwater to targeted locii, it misses that extra attention of focusing irrigation to high demand water areas.

I'm hunting down Volume Two on the expectation of more.
13 reviews
July 9, 2015
This book should be applied no matter if you have a lot of rainwater or a tiny amount. Whether rain forest, prairie or desert, these principles can equalize the water wars that have already started. Helping your neighbor, community or city has not been outlawed, so I don't understand why a rain barrel is considered against the law. Work WITH your local government, or work around their lack of knowledge and help them overcome inertia. This book will certainly help in that endeavor.
Profile Image for Tinea.
561 reviews253 followers
May 25, 2019
Recalled twice now from the library. In-demand book in Tucson! I will buy this for myself one day but just haven't yet. Paradigm-shifting, altering how one even sees landscape.

Updated: Still to-be-finished for me, but in the meantime I am bringing a hard copy to leave with a passionate grower-teacher in each rural sub-office I visit: check Chad, Nigeria, Uganda so far.
47 reviews
February 16, 2022
Best book of its kind about such things that I’ve found. Really appreciated the numbers broken down for water usage and formulae for sun aspect etc. Worth it just for these alone, have returned to over and over- just actually “finished” the book now.
Profile Image for Luca.
25 reviews3 followers
February 22, 2022
This is an incredible book full of detailed concepts and hands-on advise based on hard data (you can perceive the amount of time and research Brad Lancaster must have spent on that) that gives us a better understanding of the current status of things regarding water consumption as well as water consumption associated to the production of energy we use, so that we can calculate what is our water footprint and how we can reduce it.

Chapters about water harvesting techniques with calculation methods will help anyone to understand how much water one can harvest and how.

A must read for anyone studying about permaculture, going off grid or simply eager to contribute to the solution of the water / energy / climate change crisis we are facing and that is just going to get worse in the decades ahead.
1 review1 follower
November 28, 2019
As a long-time educator in permaculture and in sustainability in higher ed, Brad Lancaster’s books have become my go-to resources for learning and teaching about rainwater harvesting. I upgraded to the new editions because they keep me up-to-speed with policy developments and the newest evolutions in understanding how to work with rainwater.

One of the things I love about Volume 1 is that it literally illustrates the ways in which current land use approaches “waste” and deteriorate our water resources, and then showcases inspiring examples of regenerative ways of working with water in the landscape in arid regions around the world. It gives extensive, detailed specs about the super practical ways we can become stewards working towards water abundance for ourselves, our communities, and our ecosystems. Moreover, the book shows you how to synergistically connect water harvesting with building and neighborhood design, landscaping, food-growing, enjoyable outdoor spaces, etc. This is ecological design at its finest.

The diagrams and appendices are super useful for me in helping students get familiar with “doing the water math”, because they break it down and demystify the whole process, which works well for both math enthusiasts and math-phobic folks.

If, like me, you live in a place with plentiful water, but you are concerned about climate disruption, peak oil, peak food, or the overall “complicated mess” we are in, then Appendix 9 will be worth the price of the book. I lays bare the fact that right now, water use anywhere requires fossil fuels to pump it around, and thus results in carbon emissions (this is called the Water-Energy-Carbon nexus).  Knowing this will kick you into high gear to learn how to work with water in your landscape and utilize the free energy of gravity to not only regenerate your site but also reduce your carbon footprint and create local resilience.

Finally, I remember the days when info about working with rainwater was limited to fragmented info and what one could learn locally or by traveling to courses. I'm so grateful to have all this info in one place!
1 review
September 22, 2019
Given the miracle of modern infrastructure, it's easy to become complacent about water sustainability and the needs of future generations. For me, that complacency was completely shattered in the first chapter of this book. Through carefully selected anecdotes highlighting the wonderful gift of desert rainfall, it became clear to me I was missing out!

Ironically, my home was graded to shed rainwater off my property as quickly as possible- what a waste! In contrast, this book details simple earth-moving strategies for harvesting rainwater not only for landscape maintenance, but for food, shade, environmental awareness, and improved health. I put these into practice on my property and was inspired by the results.

I followed up with my Home Owners Association and shared both the principles and photos of this first volume with the goal of realizing aesthetic and money-saving opportunities in common areas. Thanks to those ideas, our HOA subsequently approved the formation of a water-harvesting committee to work in these areas. Using the principles in this book, we continue leveraging thousands of dollars in water savings while also increasing our sense of community. As such, our HOA is now a more desirable place to live.

The 3rd edition of volume 1 is chock-full of beautiful color photography and hand-drawn diagrams that clearly explain how you can realize similar benefits for your own home or community using techniques that, in most cases, require little more than gloves, a shovel, and a contagious inspiration. After you install your first features, there’s nothing more fulfilling than going out in the rain and seeing how they work, monitoring the change in your landscape over time, and then sharing the results with your neighbors.

This isn’t simply a technical reference, it’s a thoughtful labor of love and a welcome addition for anyone needing inspiration and guidance on making a difference.
2 reviews
October 26, 2019
Reading Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Volume 1 first edition in 2008 really opened my mind to how I use our valuable water and energy resources in a desert community of over 4 million people. Learning and following the 8 principles of successful rainwater harvesting I made simple changes to transform a water intensive grass yard into a water harvesting system that slows the water, allowing time for it to spread and soak into our soil that is covered with wood chip mulch and plants that create a sponge.We also installed a rain tank to collect rainwater from our roof which overflows into a basin for our tangelo tree. This stored rainwater, along with greywater from our laundry, supplement the tangelo's water needs between rain storms. Our native trees and plants that only receive water when it rains, passively cools our home, landscape, driveway, and sidewalks. Learning how to create an integrated system from the roof to the soil has allowed us to go further with our on-site resources before using imported potable water and energy.
Now 11 years later, reading the full-color edition of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Volume 1, I'm really excited about the inclusion of the authors experience from engaging the "feedback loop", and the knowledge from others who have developed water harvesting systems. The full color illustrations considerably improve the visual message the author is providing. This book is a must read for anyone who would like to conserve their valuable resources wherever they live.
Profile Image for Lori.
Author 1 book20 followers
September 13, 2013
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Vol I & II by Brad Lancaster is a must-have for those who understand the scarcity of clean, available water today, and want to make a difference on how they use water now. The need for water smarts was true in 2006 when I first found out about Brad and his organization, and it is true today.

These books are for a home library of people who are living as homesteaders, for those interested in a Permaculture, or sustainable future. It would benefit cities, towns, zoos, sanctuaries, and States to have their Waste Water management study this writing. Rainwater Harvesting, can make a world of difference.

If you are trying to figure out how to use more rain barrels, or larger tanks to cache water, these books are not of that philosophy, rather it is how to make every drop of water that falls near you count. Rainwater Harvesting can teach anyone how to evaluate their property and area, and make simple, but detailed plans on how to make a greener, and more abundant property. Not only does this affect homeowners, but entire communities as well.

These are more than books, they are guides for the future that holds very little clean water for us all.
2 reviews1 follower
November 9, 2019
I have used Mr. Lancaster's books for years at my farm and in the ecology courses I teach. These books are by far the most informative water management guides for home and neighborhood level. The latest edition with color images and photos is even easier to read and apply. The step by step installation photos reveals how doable these water conserving methods are. A must-have for all ecological designers.
October 22, 2019
This is the 3rd edition of this book and it was well worth buying this upgrade. This book is for anyone looking into understanding natural system patterns, rainwater harvesting, greywater systems and design methods for sustainability, and so much more. There is no other book like this out there with enough detail for the professional but written in a form that the novice can understand. This new edition has more color in the diagrams and newer examples of current project implementations. I use this book as a reference to the current work that I do in habitat restoration and greywater. Highly recommended.
2 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2019
I don't often find both good news and common sense in the same book these days. But this book has both in abundance! The author clearly walks his talk, practicing rainwater harvesting and sustainable design at his home and in his community. Based on all the examples, you don't need to be in a climate where it rains a lot to make it worthwhile to harvest rainwater. You can do it anywhere. I loved the chapter about the "Man who farms water" in a dry part of Africa. There is a lot to learn here, and this book makes the learning fun.
2 reviews
October 1, 2019
Glad to see the updates in version 3 especially the detailed instructions for folks to be able to develop water resource budgets and calculate plant water demands wherever they live. This is critical for future water sustainability! We use this book in our (Watershed Management Group) 7-day Water Harvesting Design Certification course and will recommend students use the 3rd edition if they are not already.
2 reviews
October 15, 2019
The 3rd Edition of an already excellent how-to book on managing Earth's most precious resource is great. Knowledge Brad has learned over time helps solidify practical ways we can all can apply to managing water where ever we live. This book is simple to understand and sketches are well presented. I appreciate Brad as one who lives what he believes and this book is a testament to him and his belief.
October 9, 2019
If they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, then a color picture must be worth a million. The use of colored pictures in this 3rd edition helps to better illustrate and explain the many concepts/methods of harvesting rainwater. This book is continues to be on my recommendation list to all of the people that attend any of my classes.
2 reviews
October 24, 2019
This book has been extremely helpful for me to understand the possibilities of an integrated site. I especially like the clear drawings and practical strategies for on-site observation. It provides incredible detail for measuring water, sun, wind, and other energies on site. I have learned so much from reading this book and look forward to checking out Volume 2!
Profile Image for Diane.
324 reviews
January 6, 2011
Excellent technical manual for people serious about harvesting rainwater in a variety of ways. Graphs, calculations, explanations... this is a rainwater textbook. Along with its other volumes, it is a treasure.
Profile Image for Beth.
683 reviews58 followers
January 9, 2018
I read it through in one sitting and now am re-reading it, This is so very much exactly what I was looking for in terms of idea's on HOW to set things up, what kind of storage you need ideas on how to protect the storage units from the sun, etc. man do I have work to do, ordered volume 2 already.
Profile Image for Laura Allen.
Author 1 book5 followers
October 7, 2019
This is an excellent book and must-read for anyone interested in working with water. The full-color version more clearly shows how water moves through the landscape and how each water harvesting strategies function.
2 reviews
December 17, 2019
Brad Lancaster’s revised editions Volume 1 and 2 of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond are a must have for any newcomer or experienced person who wishes to harvest rainwater in multiple ways.
The pages light up with the new full color graphics and photos. I especially appreciate the updates on real-life case studies, tracking the time-tested experience of Mr. Lancaster’s, and others, work. I have successfully utilized both volumes in learning the most effective ways of capturing rainwater, here in the Northwest where we have very dry summers.

As our climate changes these volumes are an indispensable tool toward assisting the reader to more fully comprehend the cause and effect of harvesting water, the earth’s most valuable resource.

As the title indicates the core of these books is harvesting rainwater, yet they are so much more. In Volume 1, Mr. Lancaster explains the basics of how to assess one’s water input potential and the actions needed to achieve this through integrated design on an individual or neighborhood scale. This enables the reader to understand the flow of water, calculate the amount of this flow and install plants that help with water absorption.

As an instructor of whole systems landscape design, these books are extremely useful in sharing with my students. The quick reference guides provide the opportunity to gain a whole systems approach to water harvesting, as are the expanded tools and how-to information.

In Volume 1, Mr. Maseko, the African farmer, so aptly stated: You’ve got to plant the water before you can plant the trees. Brad Lancaster’s book skillfully offers us the tools in how to effectively plant water.
Jude Hobbs is an internationally recognized permaculturist with 35 years’ experience in the design and teaching fields.

December 31, 2019
Brad Lancaster's Rainwater Harvesting Volume 1 gives an in depth background of living in the drylands and relating to water. This book breaks down the construct of humans utilizing mama earth, and instead shows how humans can live in a harmonic relationship with the earth - even when it comes to water resources in drylands! The writing is easy to read and builds on information in a clear and well thought out way, leaving the reader feeling full and educated, not drowning in new information. The book itself is good quality to the feel, the pictures are in color, and the font is appealing to the eye. I highly recommend this book as a starter book to have for anyone doing water conservation work at home or in their neighborhood, or to reference when thinking about how humans can better relate to Place of living.
Highly Recommend!!
2 reviews
August 15, 2020
Indigenous peoples have long used earthworks and containers to harvest rainwater for drinking and irrigation. But these ancient techniques were largely forgotten in the age of the machine, when Hoover Dam and a vast system of pipes bought Colorado River water to the deserts of Arizona, California, Nevada and four other states. Now that rising temperatures and drought are reducing the supply of Colorado River water, people have returned to the ancient art of rainwater harvesting. In this lavishly illustrated and well-written book, Brad Lancaster has updated rainwater harvesting for both the rural homesteader and urban dweller. This book contains enough information for anyone to get started on their own journey of harvesting the rain. As I am forced to stay home because of the pandemic, I also found joy reading about community and mesquite pancakes.
383 reviews3 followers
April 16, 2021
A really essential book, not just for desert gardening, but desert life. Lancaster's holistic, integrative approach focuses on small-scale, appropriate technologies that don't just collect water, they apply it to support life. Although many books that focus on these big picture issues fail to provide substantive detail, this one provides reams of resources, tables, and guided worksheets that will help you apply its principles. My only disappointment is how much this requires you to own the land you're working on, unless you have a very generous landlord. Even so, Lancaster describes several ways, that vary in extent of landscape change, that renters can minimize their water waste and foster life.
July 27, 2020
Loved this book Planning on doing some active and passive rainwater harvesting at my parents home who live in an area where there is no organization/company to help establish these systems. This was neatly organized, covering the basics with-easy-to-follow information accompanied by pictures and graphics to help you visualize the design process and some of the fundamentals of how these designs work very clearly. Enjoyed and appreciated the sections towards the end about solar energy and wind harvesting, although not currently my focus, it was a great complement to this book and it motivated me to want to take advantage of this info.
September 8, 2022
Brad Lancaster reawakened my childhood hyper fixation on drains. This is an essential read for everyone living in the U.S. southwest and in similar arid climates. Still, it suffers from the same issues every other "permaculturalist" text has. While inspiring and informative, Rainwater Harvesting...'s solutions are a bit too one-size-fits-all. Not to mention, this book is short. For a series in three volumes, I would expect a bit more meat per volume, especially considering a ~$40 price point each. Admittedly, most of the material (at least in vol. 1) is accessible for free online. Maybe best to just watch YouTube videos.
1 review
September 22, 2019
If you only read one book on the rainwater harvesting aspects of permaculture and other regenerative methods of landscaping, this should be it.
It's exceptionally clear and solution based, suitable for beginners, class rooms and old pros.
I've been doing this kind of thing for nearly 20 years and I am relearning, refining and expanding on the techniques I use.
It's even got a game plan, step by step instructions and check lists.
I highly recommend you get a copy for your self and one to loan out. I keep having to get mine back.
February 22, 2020
After using Lancaster's books for many years for both reference material and recommended reading to my students, I was pleased to obtain both volume 1 and volume 2 of the revised editions. As you can see from the photo almost all the images are in color which make them much easier to understand. Some of the images and sections have been rearranged for coherence from my point of view. And new information has been added

I would recommend this book along with volume 2 for anyone serious about water harvesting on landscape and for their home.
2 reviews
May 16, 2020
We have forgotten more than we know on how to work with our environment. This book reminds us of lessons from our ancestors’ relationships with nature and how we live today that is counter to those lessons. It’s a very complicated system to pump water across Arizona to provide for the desert dwellers that live here but there is a simpler way; it’s very complicated to engineer a climate control system to maintain a comfortable temperature in our homes but there is a simpler way. This book opens the door to a world of self-resilience, opportunities and abundance. GET IT!
March 23, 2022
This text fills an important niche in the water harvesting literature, including a good introduction to passive and active water harvesting along with many helpful technical reference appendices. A great resource for DIY projects and neighborhood-scale efforts in particular, the new edition includes color images to help illustrate ideas as well as content that has been enhanced from prior editions. Written from a strong permaculture perspective, so some elements require reader interpretation/adaptation in different applications and contexts.
2 reviews
December 29, 2019
This volume provides many examples of how to use water more productively. The variety of techniques can be mixed and matched to best suit your individual needs. For those who are more visual learners, the pictures do a great job at demonstrating these concepts. The book gives important details but is by no means overly technical. This first volume provides a solid foundation for volume two. One of the best parts is that you will not only conserve water, but also save money!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews

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