Green infrastructure and stormwater harvesting to meet sustainable water use in semi-arid cities: barriers, bridges, goals, and uses for water

Authors: Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman*, University of Maryland, Andrea Gerlak, University of Arizona, Lena Berger, University of Arizona, David Dziubanski, University of Arizona, Marissa Matsler, University of Maryland
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Urban Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: ecosystem services, participatory modeling, green infrastructure, cities, water, desert
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Green Infrastructure (GI) is being adopted globally as a solution to meet environmental sustainability and resilience challenges. We have been studying GI policy, practice, and functionality in Tucson, Arizona, a city working to meet sustainability challenges and adapt to climate change in an already water-constrained semi-arid setting. Tucson provides a unique case study because local GI practice originates from an ethos of water harvesting, rather than from a regulatory mandate to use GI to improve water quality. Here, we present the results from a series of interdisciplinary science-policy dialogues that were held with managers from local municipalities, design practitioners, neighborhood representatives, and academic researchers that included a series of linked participatory activities. We explored the various contexts in which GI is relevant for providing ecosystem services and the critical barriers and bridges that would be useful for assessing practice and implementation. Using workshop outcomes as well as existing and ongoing participant observation approaches, we discuss stakeholder goals for GI and potential uses for harvested stormwater, barriers and bridges to GI implementation, and a systems perspective that addresses the multifunctionality of GI. Stakeholders indeed recognize this multifunctionality of GI, but the diverse perceptions on the relative importance and practicality of outcomes, such as flood mitigation, increasing urban tree canopy, and mitigating urban heat, reducing potable water consumption, provides new opportunities and challenges for building a broad community of practice around GI. This research provides insights into linking lot-scale practice and neighborhood-scale outcomes with GI serving as a stormwater harvesting approach.

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