Harvesting Rain and Meltwater Just Makes Sense in Taos, Mexico
Taos, New Mexico – For thousands of years the original inhabitants found a wide variety of brilliant ways to put water to work. Much later, Hispanic colonists did the same with the creation of acequia communities, employing an ancient technique that originated in North Africa and is still in use here today.
Taos, New Mexico – Although the methods have changed and technological advancements offer many more options than were available historically, the importance of rainwater harvesting has only increased. With our normally dry environmental conditions, our frequent cycles of drought and the dire predictions of climate scientists, the collection, storing and utilization of rainwater is perhaps more important now than ever.
Longtime Taos-area contractor Charlee Myers says that, in general, groundwater wells across the county are drawing down. There are more people in the area using more water and the meager snowfall of the last decade has done little to replenish the regional aquifers.
Myers is the owner of Mountain Mesa Construction and sits on the Board of Directors for the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA), a national group that advocates for sustainable rainwater harvesting practices and regulations.
“In a lot of our, county wells are simply too expensive to drill. This is especially true west of the gorge,” says Myers whose home water use is 100 percent from rainwater and snowmelt. Myers says that he has not had any outside water augmentation to his system since 2011. Since then his tanks have remained at least 60 percent full. Our most recent snows brought him up to full capacity. “We go through dry periods in Taos and people wonder how harvesting could work. But even in a drought, when it rains it rains a lot. And with the right size tanks you can take advantage of that.”
It may seem odd to some but New Mexico is actually one of the leaders when it comes to rainwater harvesting. For example, Santa Fe County mandates that new developments and large buildings have catchment systems. A number of subdivisions and communities rely almost exclusively on catchment strategies — the Earthship community for example. This year there is a bill before the state legislature that would give tax credits to people who install rainwater harvesting systems.