Water utilities are incentivizing residential water conservation and incorporating alternative water sources, such as rainwater. How do past relationships with state institutions and their water infrastructures impact present engagements with state-sponsored rainwater collection? How does the formalization of rainwater harvesting as a conservation strategy account for or discount the practices and values of low-income Hispanic residents? Mixed methods data from southern Arizona show that collectively, low-income Hispanic participants had rainwater collection expertise often born from past experiences in the context of precarious water provisioning, but both residents and institutional experts tended to downplay this situated expertise. At the same time, by enrolling in state-sponsored rainwater collection, many low-income Hispanic households enacted their belonging to the city on their own terms, charting an unexpected path towards urban inclusion. I highlight how applied anthropology contributes to adaptive water management by showing how different relationships, values, and practices imbue people’s engagement with water infrastructures.

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