A to Z Glossary of Terms

Active Rainwater Harvesting

Active rainwater harvesting is where rainwater is stored for use at a later date. Rainwater can be used in many ways once it has been stored, i.e. for irrigation, fountains, ponds, animals, and domestic uses for humans.

From the Spanish word translated as ‘brook’, an arroyo is a water-carved gully or channel. The main drainage network from an upper watershed in desert ecosystems, arroyos are typically dry with no running water unless there is significant snowmelt, or a large storm event in the area.

A mound of soil piled, shaped and compacted on the downhill side of a plant or tree to direct and harvest any available runoff water.

Blackwater is the water from the kitchen sink and the toilets.

A berm built in the shape of a boomerang on the downhill side of a plant or tree. The most efficient water harvesting structure, it collects water from a larger surface area uphill because of the open shape.

Branched drain greywater system
A greywater system that moves water from one main drain line and separates it into several different drain lines. A branched drain greywater system can water multiple areas at once.

A typical drainage structure for flat roof homes in the Southwest. A canale helps to send water away from the house when it is coming off the roof.

A receptacle for holding water. Often cisterns are built to catch and store rainwater.

A drainage device that is attached to gutters or canales. Usually made of metal or copper, downspouts can transport water to a beneficial location in the landscape and away from the foundation of the house.

Drip Irrigation System
A watering process in which water flows through tubing and is delivered to plants roots via emitters or sprayers. The rate of water flow is adjustable, minimizing water runoff and reducing the amount of water that is lost through evaporation. This type of irrigation system also provides a more consistent rate of moisture to individual plants.

Edible Landscaping
Landscaping that incorporates fruit and nut trees, berries, herbs, vegetables and vines that are
both decorative and food producing, giving you the best of both worlds.

Erosion Control
Effective erosion control techniques prevent soil loss and water pollution and can involve the creation of physical barriers, such as vegetation or rock, to absorb the erosive potential of wind or water. Although erosion is a natural process, the fragile soils in the high desert are very susceptible to major erosion. Erosion frequently goes unchecked in the southwest, and with minimal techniques to help sediment deposition, vegetation can be re-established. Vegetation is what we need to hold soil in place, bringing the land back to a healthier state.

Fish Scales
Multiple boomerang structures installed on a slope, connecting together to form numerous basins for water harvesting.

An erosion control structure that is a wire basket filled with rock. Gabions help to control erosion by maintaining an uphill gradient where soil has been eroding.

Greywater / Graywater / Gray Water
Greywater is water that has been used in the house and comes from bathroom sinks, shower, baths and washing machines.

Groundwater is the water that makes it through the first layer of soil and is stored in the ground where it is usable by plants.

A small drainage area that usually leads to an arroyo. A feeder drainage to a larger arroyo.

Hardscaping incorporates hard landscape materials, such as stone, rocks, walls, walkways, etc. into a landscape.

Irrigation Systems
Irrigation is a key component to any landscape. Irrigation systems can be fed from municipal water sources, wells – and even better – water catchment systems. Using rainwater as a primary irrigation source is a sustainable way to grow a healthy landscape (rainwater is balanced in pH, has beneficial microorganisms, is low in Total Dissolved Solids/TDS and salts, and is charged from electrical storms) and helps with overall water conservation.

One Rock Dam
A simple structure where a single layer of rock is added to a drainage area to control the speed of water moving through it, and control sediment movement downhill. ORDs are usually about 4’ wide  and can be installed on contour or simply in the low point of a drainage area.

Passive Water Harvesting
Passive water harvesting is where rainwater is stored on the site where it falls, and is infiltrated into the ground for landscapes and groundwater recharge.

Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) was a term coined by Bill Mollison in the 1970’s. It is the integration of human society with a form of perennial agriculture that mimics the patterns of nature and ecological systems. Permaculture is an idea that can help us achieve a more sustainable future by working with Nature, and seeing ourselves as part of Nature.

Permaculture Design
Permaculture design mimics the relationships found in natural ecologies and encourages self-sufficiency, co-habitation, and synergistic living with nature. Permaculture design can help create sustainable landscapes that build soil, grow food for people and wildlife, conserve water, moderate flood and drought conditions, moderate temperature fluctuations, create natural habitats, regulate pests and increase biodiversity.

“Drinking water” or potable water is water of sufficiently high quality that can be safely consumed or used domestically.

Pumice Wicks: Rainwater or Greywater System
A pumice wick system functions in a similar way whether it is a rainwater or greywater infiltration system. Water can captured from a roof and be gravity fed out to an area that will be landscaped or to existing trees, and dispersed through a pumice wick. A pumice wick is a trench that is lined with geotextile fabric, filled with pumice, and has a perforated pipe running level throughout the trench. This level pipe allows the water (rain or grey) to move through the entire area of the trench equally. The pumice provides air space and keeps the area full of oxygen. The water can then be “wicked” out of the structure by the plant roots.

Rainwater Harvesting
Rainwater harvesting is the gathering and accumulation of rainwater. Rainwater harvesting can be either active or passive. Passive water harvesting is where rainwater is stored on the site where it falls, and is infiltrated into the ground for landscapes and groundwater recharge. Active rainwater harvesting is where rainwater is stored for use at a later date. Rainwater can be used in many ways once it has been stored, i.e. for irrigation, fountains, ponds, animals, and domestic uses for humans.

A rivulet is a very small drainage that usually feeds a gully.

Sludgehammer Treatment Unit
An aerobic bacterial generating device placed into septic tanks to remove excess nitrogen and keep the septic tank full of oxygen. Waste and unoxygenated bacteria are the primary reason for failure of traditional septic systems.

Sunken Bed
A planting bed that has been dug out so that it is below the existing grade. A sunken bed greatly increases the amount of water a plant has access to.

Sustainable Landsites
Sustainable landsites are landscapes that can grow and thrive without the constant intervention of human resources. Most take a good amount of time and resources to fully establish. Sustainable landscapes eventually provide a constant working relationship and ecological merging of the plants and organisms living within the landscape.

A trench that is installed along a landscape on contour. A swale has the excavated soil from the trench compiled on the downhill side, and is designed to harvest runoff water from the land.

Land forms that level the grade of a landscape and help control erosion and infiltrate water. Terraces can be built using a variety of materials such as rock, concrete, and wood.

In water recycling terms, water typically thought of as wasted, i.e. sink water, bathwater, toilet water.

Water Recycling
Rainwater, greywater and blackwater are all water sources that we generally don’t think of as resources that are available to us. Why not get as much use from water as possible? Reuse of all three water sources are legal in New Mexico. In nature, water is used as many times as possible before leaving the landscape as groundwater or evaporation. We can utilize this same conservationist approach to maximize potential water use.

Xeriscaping utilizes water-conserving techniques, such as using drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation to create sustainable landscapes.

Zuni Bowl
An erosion control structure built from rock that stops erosion with the use of rock bowls, creating a place where water moving through a steep gully or arroyo can drop sediment and infiltrate the ground.

Sound interesting? Have questions? Call or email Reese Baker at The RainCatcher for a free consultation or estimate: 505.501.4407