Del Gordon lived in Northern Virginia with lots of rain to grow just about anything that could tolerate the winter. Then he moved to arid Sierra Vista in Southern Arizona.
He bought a house on two acres covered with invasive field grass.
What to do?
"I knew I wanted xeriscaping. I wanted to do the right thing, so I could conserve water and not put such a drain on our water resources," Gordon said. That led him to UACE and the Cochise County Cooperative Extension WaterWise program.
"I believe in sustaining practices. That's the way we should go. That's what we're trying to do with xeriscape and rainwater harvesting – to lessen our impact on the environment."
By 2010, the Northrop Grumman software engineer knew he wanted to commit to rainwater harvesting. He entered the Cooperative Extension's RainScape Challenge Contest. The WaterWise program received a grant to challenge Sierra Vista and Hereford residents to turn five landscapes into rainscapes that rely totally on rain and storm water.
"With rainwater harvesting there's a lot to learn. It can be intimidating and daunting. Cooperative Extension provides a lot of help and encouragement. Through their activities you can obtain education materials and go on rainwater harvesting tours. It really helps make you feel that this is something you can do."
Now Gordon's yard is a showpiece for future UACE water-harvesting demonstration tours.
For aesthetic reasons, an installation underground was Gordon's first choice. "Winning the contest allowed us to have a big, complex system." Without the prize money, "I would have done something – but probably not of this magnitude."