US Department of Agriculture, USDA Forest Service, Technology and Development Program Banner with Logos.
Images from various aspects of the T&D Program.
HomeAbout T&DT&D PubsT&D NewsProgram AreasHelpContact Us
  T&D > T&D Pubs > Sustainability Solutions No. 12: Rainwater Harvesting at the Smokey Bear Ranger District T&D Web Header
Sustainability Solutions No. 12: Rainwater Harvesting at the Smokey Bear Ranger District

The Southwestern United States is well known for its arid climate. The Smokey Bear Ranger District at the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico uses rainwater harvest systems at some of its facilities to make the most of limited precipitation.

Photo of an employee filling up an engine with water from a water tender.
Figure 1—Filling a water tender from the rainwater
harvest system at the Smokey Bear
Ranger Station engine bay.

The ranger district is located in the Sacramento Mountains and receives most of its annual precipitation during the monsoon season (mid-July through mid-September). Fast-moving runoff from heavy rains can cause damage to the landscape. Rainwater harvest systems help mitigate this problem by collecting rainwater into storage tanks. Rainwater falling on a roof flows into the gutter system and is diverted into a storage tank instead of the ground. Rainwater saved is available for other uses and the landscape is protected from erosion. The Smokey Bear Ranger District's numerous facilities have ample roof surface area for collecting rainwater and reducing local runoff.

Rainwater harvesting began at the district during 2009 when a 5,000-gallon storage tank (with gutter system) was installed on the engine bay at the Smokey Bear Ranger Station in Ruidoso, NM (figure 1). The project was paid for with regional microgrant program funds, Forest, and district funds. The harvestable amount of rainwater from the engine bay roof averages about 33,700 gallons per year. The harvested water is used primarily to fill water tenders (large tank trucks) for fire suppression; for washing trucks, hoses, and equipment; and for landscaping.

Photo of a garden located outside of the Smokey Bear Ranger Station.
Figure 2—Smokey's Garden, outside the main office at
the Smokey Bear Ranger Station. The garden is used for
educational purposes and to provide fresh vegetables
to the Lincoln County Food Bank.

A second system was installed on the main office at the ranger station in the spring of 2010. This 3,000-gallon storage tank is used primarily to provide water for "Smokey's Garden" (figure 2), a community garden that provides fresh vegetables to the Lincoln County Food Bank. A garden apprenticeship program also offers students in the sixth grade and above an opportunity to learn gardening activities. Funding for the garden and water system was donated by local groups and businesses.

Another 5,000-gallon storage tank (with gutter system) was installed at the district's Capitan Work Center during August 2011 (figure 3). Rainwater harvested at the work center is used primarily to fill water tenders for fire suppression; for washing trucks, hoses, and equipment; and for landscaping.

Rainwater harvesting is becoming more popular and necessary for residents in the areas surrounding the Smokey Bear Ranger District, as local area aquifers are drying up. The Forest Service is a proactive leader in the community by promoting water conservation and alternative collection techniques to area residents and visitors.

Photo of a rainwater harvest storage tank.
Figure 3—A 5,000-gallon rainwater harvest system
storage tank located at the Capitan Work Center.

For more information on the rainwater harvest systems at the Smokey Bear Ranger District, please contact:

Daniel Ray
575–257–4091
dfray@fs.fed.us

Or

Christina Thompson
575–630–3050
cmthompson@fs.fed.us

We're interested in what is happening in your unit. Contact Bob Beckley at 406–329–3996 to share your sustainability solutions with others in the Forest Service.