Annual rain & native food forest plantings another success in 2024

Our 28th annual Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood Rain, Tree, & Food Forest Planting extended into the adjoining West University Neighborhood for a fifth year here in Tucson, Arizona.

But as both neighborhoods are part of, and share, the same watershed, you could say we planted in just one waterhood.

Our “waterhood”. The Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood is marked by the yellow border, but the two subwatersheds that drain through our neighborhood contain many other neighborhoods. We are all one “waterhood”.
Core drilling hole in curb to let street-runoff into the street-side eddy basin (before planting). Tucson Concrete Cutting doing the work.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Curb coring drill atop knee pad.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

In total, during our 2024 planting, we planted:
Over 45,000 gallons of stormwater (that will be captured in the constructed street-stormwater-harvesting earthworks in an average year of rain).
(This water used to wastefully drain out of the neighborhoods, dehydrating them and creating downstream flooding).

We plant the rain before we plant any plants, so after establishment, passively-harvested rainwater and stormwater will be the sole irrigation source of the plantings post establishment. It takes one to three years of supplemental irrigation to get the plants established so they can then subsist on passively harvested rain and runoff alone.

• 26 native food-bearing trees that will grow to full size.

• 21 bush trees (see here for an example)

• 108 native, multi-use understory plants

• Quarter pound of Wildlands Restoration’s native wildflower seed mix; and Bosque del Bac Restoration seed mix, sown along with neighborhood-grown coyote gourd seed and datura seed.

Volunteers who helped plant:

Neighborhoods represented by the volunteers that helped plant:

Neighborhood blocks of public pedestrian paths cleared of gravel/rock, pruned, and widened to five feet—to regain full pedestrian access:

Four-inch diameter curb cores made to direct street runoff into street-side basins

Existing driveway dips in street curb used as street-side basin inlets:

Plan submitted for pre-approval of City of Tucson rainwater-harvesting rebate.
Dunbar Spring Neighborhood Foresters creates a design and plan for everyone participating in our annual rain and native food forest planting program.
Before planting street runoff.
White rectangle shows where the water-harvesting basin will be dug by the backhoe. Blue dashed lines show location of underground water line.
We call 811 a week before any excavation for a free service that marks the locations of underground utility lines. All basins and planting are inspected and permitted through the City of Tucson.
Blue arrow denotes water flow.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
After planting street runoff and native food forest within street-side stormwater-harvesting basin beside El Grupo Youth Cycling on 9th Avenue.
Last year’s basin is upstream. Blue arrow denotes water flow.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
On-property water-harvesting basin just after planting at El Grupo Youth Cycling.
Blue arrow denotes water flow.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Many generations planting within water-harvesting basins at El Grupo Youth Cycling. Photo: Brad Lancaster
Second on-property water-harvesting basin at El Grupo Youth Cycling.
Blue arrow denotes water flow.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Native prickly pear pads planted for future prickly pear fruit harvests.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
El Grupo youth beside native velvet mesquite tree they just planted, and basin they just dug, both of which will harvest stormwater runoff and hose water from their bike washing station.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

Organizing, community outreach, permitting, and coordination
Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood Foresters

Design & plant selection
• Brad Lancaster of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond

Contractors we collaborated with to create the earthworks pre-planting, and the curb core holes post-planting:
• Little John Excavating
Dryland Design
Tucson Concrete Cutting

Local plant nurseries from which we sourced the plant material:
Desert Survivors Native Plant Nursery
Nighthawk Natives Nursery
Spadefoot Nursery
• Wildlands Restoration

Local company from which we sourced the Catalina granite to line the basin banks
• Churchman Sand & Gravel

Huge thanks to the many volunteers that helped plant out all these water-harvesting earthworks!
We couldn’t do it without you, and you all can now further spread these good practices and knowledge deeper throughout our community.

Water-harvesting eddy basins being dug on Perry Avenue by John Litzel on his mini excavator-perfect for tight spots like this.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Street-side water-harvesting basins and their plantings on Perry Avenue complete. Photo: Brad Lancaster
Mini-excavator used to turn a mounded, water-draining yard into a concave water-harvesting yard. Dump trailer hauls the excavated soil away.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

Spread the word for next year

If you live within this waterhood share this with you neighbors, as we’ll be taking orders for the 2025 plantings in November 2024. Check our Events page and Blog later this year for updates. Or better yet, sign up on our Contact page.

And if you live in this or a different waterhood, consider starting up a neighborhood forester effort in your neighborhood (we can help you).

Driveway-runoff-harvesting basins and their planters off 9th Avenue.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Planters of driveway-runoff-harvesting basins.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

Water harvesting books for more info:

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1 and Volume 2

Green line shows where the tiny street-side water-harvesting basin will be excavated along University Blvd.
Note the colored spray painted lines on the ground. Yellow shows gas line. Red shows electrical line. Blue shows water line. The basin just barely fits within the one clear spot amongst the underground utility lines.
Blue arrow denotes street runoff flow.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Tiny street-runoff-harvesting basin on University Blvd after planting.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
We managed to find one more utility-free spot to make another tiny water-harvesting basin (small is better than nothing, but when we don’t have underground utility constraints, we make the basins much larger for greater water capture, more plantings, and more flood control.
Blue arrow denotes water flow.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

Breakdown of the 2023 planting numbers by neighborhood:

Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood
Over 15,000 gallons of stormwater per year
14 trees that will grow to full size
85 understory plants
9 curb cores (plus, one driveway dip in curb was used instead of a curb core)
31 volunteers

Two street-runoff-harvesting basins on 4th Street.
One basin has a curb core drilled through the street curb to let street runoff into the basin, while the other basin extends to the existing dip in the curb where there had once been a driveway. Blue arrows denote water flow.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

West University Neighborhood
Over 30,000 gallons of stormwater per year
12 trees that will grow to full size
44 understory plants
6 curb core
30 volunteers

Before water-harvesting basin creation on 3rd Avenue and 1st Street in West University Neighborhood. Dashed blue lines show where underground water line is.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Street-side water-harvesting basin on 1st Street before curb core is drilled.
Rockwork by Dryland Design.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Street-side water harvesting basins and planters after planting, along 3rd Avenue in foreground, and along 1st Street in the background.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

Please consider making a donation
to the Dunbar Spring
Neighborhood Foresters

so we can continue and grow these efforts, share lessons learned, and provide the organizational tools we continue to evolve to everyone:


Before water-harvesting basin is dug along 2nd Avenue.
Blue arrow denotes water flow. Photo: Brad Lancaster
Street-side water-harvesting basin and planters after planting along 2nd Avenue.
Blue arrow denotes water flow.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

To see plantings from other years:

Annual rain & native food forest plantings another success in 2023

Annual rain & native food forest plantings another success in 2022

Annual rain & native food forest plantings another success in 2021