Planting and Harvesting Rain

Watershed management adds benefit to landscape

By Tom McDonald

Arizona is in the twenty-first year of a long-term drought, according to the Arizona State Climate Office, and at least one Apache Junction couple has decided to do something about it.

In late November 2018, Elizabeth Butler and Bill Gorrell hosted a party of sorts – a rainwater harvesting party. For several years, Elizabeth and Bill had been attending classes and hands-on workshops on Rainwater Harvesting, offered by the Watershed Management Group (WMG), whose mission is to “develop community-based solutions to ensure the long-term prosperity of people and health of the environment.” WMG is a non-profit organization that focuses on education to provide people with the knowledge, skills and resources for applying sustainable practices at their homes and communities, including how to utilize rainwater, greywater and stormwater as a beneficial resource for the landscape.

In a phrase, Elizabeth and Bill had learned how to “plant the rain,” and they had the perfect spot. Water, during even mild rains, would cascade off their roof into the backyard, taking substantial amounts of soil and gravel with it as it moved down their driveway. WMG’s designer Ryan Wood provided a plan and helped organize a work party of volunteers to install a series of rain gardens, which are shallow depressions, complete with Sonoran Desert native plants picked for their beauty, hardiness and attractiveness to pollinators.

“We paid for the design, grading, plants and mulch,” explained Elizabeth. “And the labor was free,” added Bill. An inexpensive, temporary irrigation system was added by Bill to supplement rains while the plants are getting acclimated to their new home. Not a bad investment to beautify an otherwise underutilized area and solve a flooding issue, while benefiting the environment.

To learn more about Watershed Management Group, visit, or contact Ryan Wood, Phoenix program manager, at or 602-618-6650.

Photo above: Volunteers install a series of rain gardens in the backyard of Elizabeth Butler and Bill Gorrell

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