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NMSU Student Gardens display new irrigation system

A newly constructed rainwater harvesting system was unveiled June 22 at the Student Research and Education Gardens at New Mexico State University.

Mark Uchanski, NMSU associate professor of vegetable physiology and coordinator of this project, explained that rainwater harvesting consists of the collection and storage of precipitation for use on site, rather than letting it run off and drain away. It includes a structure, which is usually a metal shed, gutters and storage tanks.

The accumulated monsoonal rains water will be used to irrigate a small garden at the NMSU Student Gardens.

“This project constitutes our first step in providing an educational focal point for students and visitors,” said Richard Pratt, NMSU department head of the Plant and Environmental Sciences department. “It may also be considered another stride forward for advancing NMSU’s commitment to sustainability.”

Pratt has experience with rainwater harvesting system construction and its uses. He built a similar irrigation system at his parents’ house in Tucson in 1979. His project was published in Desert Plants Journal.

“Various municipalities are already making progress in advancing water harvesting concepts and practice,” Pratt said. “We need to get the word out about this very important water conservation system for arid lands. It is doable from the rain barrel to the year-around potable water supply level.”

At NMSU, it will serve as a teaching and learning tool for students by encouraging cost-benefit analysis, calculating storage tank capacity and how much water is needed for each crop.

“The rest of the Student Gardens 2-acre plots will be watered through conventional irrigation systems and this project will demonstrate what can be grown using a modest-sized rainwater harvesting system,” Uchanski explained.

“Students will benefit by helping to maintain the system, learning the details of how it works and exposing them to the benefits and limitations to rainwater harvesting,” he added. “We installed the system to serve as a demonstration, education and research site for our students and visitors.”
The Student Gardens consists of 2 acres of research and demonstration plots plus a 60-by-200-foot field used by students, located within walking distance west of Gerald Thomas Hall.