Desert Water Harvesting Initiative
Throughout the Western US, projected climate change will challenge water utilities to obtain additional water supplies, construct additional infrastructure, and consistently deliver sufficient water to meet growing demands. Utilities must meet peak seasonal demand in conditions that are likely to be hotter and drier than in the past. They may be managing stormwater from more intense rainfall events, and facing floods that could exceed historic levels. Federal storm water quality regulations will continue to require mechanisms to reduce the contaminant load of urban stormwater reaching waterways. Population increases and expanding urbanization will increase utilities’ water demand even as climate changes affect supply equations.
Benefits of harvesting rainwater and stormwater are multitude and include water savings, cost savings, reduced flood peaks, stormwater water quality management, habitat enhancement and reduction of urban heat island effects. For many years, Tucson has been at the forefront of efforts to incorporate water harvesting into water supply and stormwater management practices. As the benefits of water harvesting are recognized, the number and diversity of individuals and agencies exploring its potential has grown, yet most of the work is performed in relative isolation with relatively little organized data and information sharing.
The Water Resources Research Center established the Desert Water Harvesting Initiative to enhance outreach and communication between utilities, practitioners of water harvesting, academics, and interested citizens. The Initiative includes a two-year WaterSMART research grant to develop a decision guide to rainwater and stormwater harvesting; an online data clearinghouse for research and publications on water harvesting, low-impact development, and green infrastructure; and the Rainwater-Stormwater Professionals Networks (RSPN) that meets semi-annually at the WRRC to keep members abreast of current and planned activities, resources, and data.