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Soil Stewards

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Imagine healthy, productive soils expanding throughout the urban environmentretaining rainwater like a sponge, processing stormwater pollutants, delivering nutrients sustainably to plants for wildlife value and food production. Watershed Management Group piloted a program to develop urban Soil Stewards to realize such a vision!

Soil Stewards operate at both the individual and neighborhood scales. Read below to find out more and get involved!

'How To' Videos on Composting Toilets

WMG Receives Permit for Piloting Site-built Composting Toilets

updated May 30th, 2012 --

David Omick instructs soil steward participants on the proper installation and use of a barrel-style composting toilet system.Watershed Management Group received a permit from Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to install and monitor 24 site-built composting toilets in southern Arizona. The 2-year composting toilet pilot program is part of a Soil Stewards educational grant funded by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More information regarding the composting toilet designs developed for the pilot study can be found here.

Neighborhood Mulching Program Transforms "Brush & Bulky" into "Chipped and Mulchy"

WMG is working with three Tucson neighborhoods to transform tree trimmings from green “waste,” which is trucked to the landfill, into a resource: organic mulch that can be used as a soil cover and in water-harvesting basins.  Neighborhood tree pruning days are paired with “Chipped and Mulchy” days, in which tree trimmings are chipped into mulch.  “Chipped and Mulchy” takes place just before the city’s Brush & Bulky pick-up days, offering an alternative that keeps and utilizes local resources on-site.

Soil Stewards - Pioneering affordable and legal composting toilets

Watershed Management Group's Soil Stewards program is piloting a Composting Toilet project which aims to:

  • field test "site-built" composting toilets for performance and likeability
  • address onerous permitting requirements
  • tackle social and community barriers to what should be an abundant local resource

Through a special trial process in coordination with Arizona's Department of Environmental Quality, a mix of residential and organizational sites in southern Arizona, mainly in and around Tucson, will build, install, use, monitor, and evaluate four proposed composting toilet designs for a year and a half.

The four composting toilet designs are of two main types and with/without urine diversion:

Waste Not! Transform your waste into soil, water, and energy

Watch Our "Soil is Life" Webinar Series on YouTube

Although we often take the very ground beneath our feet for granted, soil is essential to all life. That's why Watershed Management Group hosted the Soil is Life webinar series with an expert line-up of presenters in early 2013.  We explored a variety of soils-related topics, from the local to the global scale, and now all the webinars in the series are available on YouTube for your viewing convenience. Just click on the video links below. Happy viewing!

Soil’s Role in Processing Pollutants: Case Studies of Green Infrastructure and Carbon Sequestrationwith Dr. Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman

As stormwater moves across developed areas, it picks up all kinds of pollutants from rooftops, roadways, and other surfaces – from motor oil to dog poop.  One benefit of green infrastructure features, such as earthen basins that capture stormwater runoff, is that they use natural processes to remove many of these pollutants from stormwater. 

But how effective are these processes, and what impact do pollutants have on soil and plants in stormwater-harvesting basins?  Do these types of features improve or damage urban soils in the long run?  And what can microbial life tell us about the health of water-harvesting ecosystems?  Dr. Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman of the University of Arizona addresses these questions and much more in this webinar.

Presented on: Thursday, January 24, 2013. A copy of the presentation is available here.

Why Pee on That Lemon Tree?  How to Use Urine in Your Landscapewith Carol Steinfeld and David Del Porto

There are numerous ways to use urine as a resourcethe trick is knowing what to do with it and how to get it there!  Join ecological sanitation experts Carol Steinfeld and David Del Porto, authors of The Composting Toilet System Book and Reusing the Resource: Adventures in Ecological Wastewater Recycling (among many others) for a webinar focused on urine diversion and utilization.

Presented on: Thursday, February 7, 2013. A copy of the presentation is available here.


Extreme Composting: Using Human Waste to Enhance Soil in Case Studies from Around the Worldwith Dr. Diane Austin and Sowmya Somnath


Composting toilets are particularly useful in parts of the world with limited sanitation infrastructure. Not only do these systems prevent contamination of drinking water, they also transform human waste into "humanure," which can be used to enhance soil for food production and regenerate topsoil in degraded ecosystems.  Despite these benefits, there are many barriers to implementation, including social stigma, limited resources, and building the community capacity to maintain systems. Dr. Diane Austin of the University of Arizona and Watershed Management Group’s own Sowmya Somnath will discuss the challenges and successes of implementing community-based eco-sanitation projects in India, Burkina Faso, and Mexico.

Presented on: Thursday, February 21, 2013. A copy of Sowmya Somnath's presentation is available here. A copy of Dr. Diane Austin's presentation is available here 

Read more about the importance of soil to your life in the Fall 2012 issue of
WMG's newsletter,
A Watershed Moment.

Dig in by clicking here.