SIERRA VISTA — “Water is essential for prosperity,” said Sierra Vista resident Dave Grieshop.

And throughout Cochise County and the state of Arizona, groundwater is a hot commodity and something many people are fighting to protect. According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Arizona residents use an average of 145 gallons of water a day. Of that, 70 percent is used for outdoor activities.

In an effort to help decrease the usage of groundwater, many country residents have decided to invest in rainwater harvesting tanks and systems for the watering need for landscapes and gardens. Grieshop has three tanks for a total of 3,000 gallons on his half-acre property.

“I collect rainfall falling onto our roof, store it and use it as needed on our garden and outdoor vegetation,” he said. “Our 3,000 gallons of storage capacity are replenished several times a year, given we receive about 14 inches of rain annually.”

MaryAnn Capehart, Water Wise Coordinator for the Cochise Cooperative Extension, said with one inch of rain, 600 gallons can be collected from a 1,000 square foot roof. So even with minimal rainfall, hundreds of gallons can be collected.

“Plants prefer rainwater over groundwater because of the minerals,” she said. “You can use it for things that don’t need water at a drinkable level.”

Rick Weisberg’s guilty conscience grew as concerns of the San Pedro River and protecting the water in the county also grew. Roughy 15 years ago he began rainwater harvesting on his property, which consists of his home and workshop, and started his Oasis Rainwater Harvesting business. Now he has 10 tanks that collect 20,000 gallons of water that he uses for his numerous gardens.

Weisberg said his supply of 18,000 gallons lasted him roughly five months “with virtually no rainfall.”

“I started collecting when I started the business,” he said. “My 6,000 square feet of roof produces 3,600 gallons for one inch or rain.”

He uses the water for his garden that houses over 100 plants, including native plants that don’t require a lot of water, which is one way residents can reduce their water usage.

Other uses for collected rainwater include flushing toilets and washing cars.

Sara Arsenault, manager of Sierra Vista Ace Hardware, is helping people who have thought about pursuing rainwater harvesting but are on the fence about making the full commitment by turning Sierra Vista’s old blue recycling bins into rain harvesting barrels She drills a hole at the bottom of the frontside of the barrel and adds a spicket to allow water to exit the bin for use.

“I was just thinking from a city resident perspective ‘what was I going to do with the bin,’” Arsenault said. “We’re trying to make lemonade out of lemons.”

With the monsoon season finally here Capehart suggest if you’re going to start collecting have a storage big enough for 2 to 4 inches of rain.

“My goal is to have people water landscapes only with rain,” she said. “We all need to do what we can to preserve groundwater.”

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