A Series on Building the Sustainable Home in Tucson, Arizona


Yesterday I got to see many of the plans I have in action. Last week there was an article on Tucson.com about another Tucsonan, David Stevenson, who has a water-independent house. I reached out to him, and he invited me over to see his setup.

It was cool. Very cool. And thrillingly, it’s very similar to what I’m planning. He showed me his filter system, and pointed out some things I might want to make sure mine includes. The UV filter has a very long bulb that has to slide in. Is there room, where I’m planning to mount it, for the bulb to slide in from the side or bottom? Have I thought of having pressure gauges on either side of the filters to make sure water is coming through them smoothly enough? Is there enough space to maneuver around the system? He wished he had more space in his. He told me about the two different kinds of UV filters I could get, and recommended the one that automatically shuts the system down if it detects a malfunction. He showed me the valve that turns off the city water. He showed me the backflow prevention, to keep his water from flowing back into the city water. He explained how he’s learned to recognize the subtle feeling of his pump turning on, and how it shifts the water pressure.

He asked my questions. Copper or plastic plumbing? How close is the shower to the water heater? What kind of air conditioning system? Even though I haven’t been spending much energy on the project lately, I knew the answers. It’s still my house (and okay, I studied a little before I went over). I ended up with a list of questions to make sure I discuss with Matthew before everything is finalized, from somebody who has lived with the ins and outs of these kinds of systems. And that’s invaluable, because they’re still uncommon enough that we haven’t developed a tried and true conventional wisdom about how to build these things. A Sunday afternoon well spent.

Plus, David gave me one of his coconut-flax-chocolate-oatmeal cookies. So he gets an A+ in my book.



Amy Knight is the fiction editor for Terrain.org. In this weekly series, she chronicles the process of designing and building an eco-friendly house in Tucson, Arizona. The series will explore both how it’s done and what it means, from the perspective of someone who wants to do the right thing but knows almost nothing about sustainable building. Look for new posts every Monday. You can email Amy at amy@terrain.org or leave a comment here. Visit her website, or follow her on twitter @amypknight.

Photo of sink with water by Skitterphoto, courtesy Pixabay.

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