Drought spurs water collection systems

Peggy Leatherman stands by a water tank on her property as she explains her own water collection system. (Dana Delgado photo)

Peggy Leatherman stands by a water tank on her property as she explains her own water collection system. (Dana Delgado photo)

By Dana Delgado

In recent years, there has been much said, some vociferously, about the water situation and its diminishing supply. Many have reacted in disbelief, others with dismay and still others believe the rains will soon return to Central Texas.

And then there are those, armed with research data, who profess this is only the beginning of major change. Without a doubt, the good old days of an abundant water supply are no longer.

As the drought has continued and with thousands of new residents relocating into the region, more and more people have sought new options. Not surprising, an increasing number of people are turning to rainwater collection systems, a time-honored approach but with the benefits of modern technology and expertise.

Mark Leatherman, owner of Rain Harvest Resources in southeastern Liberty Hill off CR 323, has seen the upswing.

“The worst the drought has gotten, the more interest and demand there has been for rainwater collections systems,” said Leatherman.  “I thought we’d be doing small garden systems, but found that people want whole house potable water systems. At the beginning we did more retro-fits, but now are doing many more new construction installations. The beauty of what we do is provide people with their own water system.”

Leatherman says that properly installed systems produce superior soft water quality and eliminate damage from calcium buildup to fixtures and appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, faucets and toilets.  In addition, he says, people can manage the amount of their own water supply and generally, he’s found, tend to conserve and not abuse their water.  The water harvesting systems are also energy efficient and help reduce flooding and erosion.

Unquestionably, water collection is a viable resource for outdoor watering particularly with all the unknowns with many other public water systems and well water systems, Leatherman said.

“Clean drinking water is essential to survival for all of us,” he said.  “Many populations are exposed to unclean and unhealthy water. Many of us use water daily without knowing exactly what is in it or how it has been treated prior to our using it. Not only can efficient rainwater collection systems help conserve water, they improve lives and improve the health of people.”

Furthermore, water systems are customized because all homes and property and terrain are are different.

“We help with the specific design criteria for individual needs such as tank size, tank location, storage capacity, pump and control set up, pipe sizing, downspout and filtration system installation,” said Leatherman.

With a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M University and advanced training in environmental design, architecture and art history in Florence, Italy, Leatherman spent 22 years in the commercial landscape contracting industry in Central Texas based out of Austin.  He was involved with some major clients including Dell, the Arboretum, Sun City and several hospitals.  At the time, he was a specialist focused on opening new branch offices.

But in his years in the industry he witnessed first-hand the misuse of water where everything had to be green and sprinklers ran round the clock.

“Water was being abused,” he said. “I tried to change client expectations. It was frustrating to me.”

When the declining economy and the drought collided around 2008, everything changed and the industry as he knew buckled.

“I knew a lot about construction and irrigation so I began looking at rainwater collection as a tool to help reduce our collective impact on a very delicate and finite resource,” he said.  “I also wanted to help people understand how logical and sensible rainwater harvesting really is.”

Leatherman says he also started the business, Rain Harvest Resources, four years ago to create work for those who had lost work with the economy’s collapse. Many have remained with him through the years.

The Liberty Hill businessman said he has aligned himself with professional, credentialed architects, engineers, irrigation specialists as well as contractors and plumbers who all have proven track records of honesty, professionalism and competency in their fields.

To date, Rain Harvest Resources has installed 120 water collection systems. Clients have come from throughout the region including Liberty Hill, Burnet, Elgin, Dripping Springs, Killeen, Lake Buchanan and Marble Falls. He has also completed units in Stephenville and Mineral Wells. The company also installed a system for the Oakalla Volunteer Fire Department.

“We build systems that are affordable and easy to maintain plus we plan to be around for years to support our customers with their needs,” Leatherman said.

In addition to his degree in Landscape Architecture and his practical experience with Landscape Construction, Design, and Maintenance, Mark Leatherman is a Certified Landscape Professional with the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association as well as an Accredited Professional with the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association. He is also vice-president of the Texas Rainwater Collection Association.

“I love the business and industry,” Leatherman said. “Without a doubt, water will become more and more critical in our state with the growth.”

While home installations have been a major focus, Rain Harvest Resources also does projects related to Commercial storm water reuse and agricultural/wildlife.  Community projects such as assisting Bertram Elementary School with a water collection system for its gardening program have become a part of the company’s partnership with communities.

Leatherman is originally from Louisiana and grew up in Houston. He moved to a ranch in southeast Liberty Hill in 1986. He was featured in the Nov. 2011 edition of Metal Architecture Magazine.