Rainwater as Potential Resource for Water Independence in Tucson’s Communities

Authors: Qing Zhong*, University of Arizona, Yinan Zhang*, University of Arizona, Courtney Crosson, University of Arizona, Daoqin Tong, Arizona State University
Topics: Sustainability Science, Resources, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: rainwater harvesting, net zero water, GIS, LiDAR, comprehensive optimization model
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The US Southwest is experiencing what some believe to be the worst drought in 500 years (Kuhn 2016). While water resources become scarce, population in the region has grown considerably and the growth is expected to continue. The imbalance between available water resources and projected water demands in the coming years presents tremendous challenges for water resource management, necessitating the development of novel strategies and tools to meet the growing demand. This research uses Tucson as a case study to model rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems for achieving water independence or net zero water. Although in sheer volume annual precipitation would more than account for Tucson’s annual water need, rainwater is a resource that must be gathered in decentralized interventions. To leverage this resource, we propose a comprehensive spatial analysis framework that involves GIS, remote sensing and optimization models to assess a city’s potential to achieve water independence. Ten years’ precipitation data, high-resolution LiDAR data, orthophoto, NDVI data and demographic data are collected and analyzed for estimating precipitation, roof rooftops catchment areas, outdoor irrigation water use, and indoor residential water use. Optimization models are developed to consider two system scenarios with a total of four cases, each uniquely defining the terms of achieving water independence. Results identify the township sections where RWH could make the largest impact on water independence with the least amount of required investment or smallest storage volume. In addition, the research evaluates modifications to the rebate program to increase its impact on environmental, economic, and social betterment.

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