Our city's once-abundant groundwater supply now lies more than 300 feet beneath the Earth's surface. And the level's still dropping--at 3 to 4 feet per year. If we keep using our groundwater at this rate, we'll all die of thirst.
But aren't we forgetting something? Water falls from the sky!
All we have to do is catch it. And that's what Brad Lancaster, Tucson's most famous water-harvesting expert, has been doing since he got out of college. "The way it works," he says, "is you want to harvest and give back more water to the watershed than you take out."
Let's do some calculations. For every inch of rain that falls on a 1,000-square-foot surface, you can collect 600 gallons of rain. Tucson gets an average annual rainfall of 12 inches. So, if you have 1,000 square feet at your disposal, you can catch up to 7,200 gallons of fresh rainwater every year. If you have an acre, you can get 324,000 gallons. And even more if you're clever.
Currently, Lancaster harvests more than 100,000 gallons of rain per year at his medium-sized midtown property, much of which ends up in the ground through the watering of plants. He and his housemates use less than 20,000 gallons of city water during the same amount of time. So they're definitely giving back.
Not all of us have the dedication to do what Lancaster does, but there are very simple ways we can harvest water--at least for our plants--that require nothing more than dirt and a shovel. And Lancaster, who's been teaching people about water harvesting since 1993, will tell you all about the simplest, cheapest techniques at his workshop Saturday.
Call the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum at 883-3086 to register; the cost is $36 for museum members and $40 for nonmembers. --A.M.
When artist Wil Taylor was growing up in the Northwest, he had a lot of crazy, mythological dreams and spent a lot of time admiring nature. So it's not too surprising that he's also acutely in tune with a natural, ethereal and decidedly feminine mystique that saturates his art.
One of his most interesting works, a series called "The Resurrection of Eden," was inspired by a dream he experienced over and over for two years of his childhood. In the dream, a young Taylor comes across a female figure trapped in a giant egg set in a hellish scene of fire, volcanoes and tornadoes. He tries to rescue the woman, but can't. "As a child," Taylor now recollects, "I wasn't strong enough to break her free. But I grew up and had the dream about 26 years later, and I was big and strong and was able to release her from her prison."
This is, metaphorically, what Taylor hopes to achieve with his new exhibition, a collection of totemic paintings and serigraphs (hand-painted silkscreen prints) that liberate the feminine, celebrate nature and examine what it would be like to "heal hell on Earth" through intuitive self-expression.
"It's kind of like the female side of my psyche," says Taylor of his art. "Right now, there's too much patriarchy in the world, too much yang. That feminine essence you see in my work helps me--and might help others--bring a healing, balancing energy into life. ... I think that's kind of funny coming from a guy, but there it is."
If you personally find yourself inspired by the feminine, or if your life could just use a little more yin, come check out the show before the month is over. --A.M.
Local folk singer Ted Warmbrand is a strong believer in the power of music for social change. When he first heard union songs in summer camp, his ears perked up, and he sang them in direct defiance of the camp director. Then, during his years at City College in Harlem, N.Y., he marched in support of the civil rights movement and sang songs like "We Shall Not Be Moved" and "We Shall Overcome."
Today, he shares his passion and incites it in others around town by organizing folk concerts, playing his own music and leading regular community sing-alongs. And this Monday, he's taking advantage of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to highlight the huge role singing has played in the fight for all kinds of freedom, for all kinds of people.
"The songs of the movement for civil rights in this country weren't simply entertaining or educating," Warmbrand declares. "They were energizing, empowering. ... We, the people, don't fight to be free; we fight because we are free, and these songs have the power to free people from their fears. And when you sing them with others, you might encounter that truism."
This week's sing-along will feature heartwarming spirituals like "Little Light of Mine," "Welcome Table" and "Down by the Riverside," as well as some radical freedom songs like "Back of the Bus" and "Ain't A-Scared of Your Jail." Most of the numbers will be what folk singer Lee Hays termed "zipper songs"--tunes that are instantly singable once you've heard them.
The event is free, and you won't need to use any sheet music or play any instruments. ("Why complicate things?" asks Warmbrand.) So just bring yourself, your voice and your enthusiasm. --A.M.
Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash were good friends. In fact, they started their musical careers together at Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn. And now ... they're both dead.
But Presley and Cash will come to life again this Monday through the music of Robert Shaw and The Lonely Street Band, a local Elvis tribute group that's expanded their repertoire to cover the early songs of both music legends. The band has developed quite a fan base since they started playing on a whim at The Gaslight Theatre less than two years ago. What used to be a trio with bass, guitar and drums is now a seven-member ensemble--plus occasional backup singers--with a following of about 1,000 loyal fans and at least 20 fanatical groupies. But neither Shaw (who'll sing as both Cash and Presley) nor any of the other players are as egotistical as a rock star.
"(The band members) are all leading performers in their respective instruments," said Shaw in an e-mail, "but I was looking for more than that. I wanted people who would really believe in what we were doing ... and it was very important to me to find people who are easy to work with. It's extremely rare ... to put seven musicians together in one room and not have any ego problems, but we've done that."
The Lonely Street Band will play all the hits from the '50s and '60s, kicking off the show with early Cash songs like "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line." The second act, accompanied by a change of costume for Shaw, will be devoted to Elvis chart-toppers like "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock." Tickets are $19.95 and can be bought directly from The Gaslight Theatre. --A.M.