Stormwater used to benefit Tucson neighborhoods

Monsoon season is here and you know what that means: streets filled with stormwater. Tucson residents now have the opportunity to harvest that water and use it to their benefit.

Tucson neighborhoods participating in the Neighborhood Scale Stormwater Harvesting Program can deal with pesky stormwater and use it to enhance the appearance and health of their community. The Tucson Water Department (TWD) and Tucson Clean & Beautiful (TCB) partnered to execute the program and provide participating neighborhoods with the resources to carry out the water harvesting project.

TCB is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that focuses on preserving Tucson and eastern Pima County’s environment and natural resources. The nonprofit works with the neighborhoods and guides them through the project process.

“The stormwater harvesting process is essentially putting infrastructure alongside roadways to capture that stormwater and put it to a beneficial use,” said water conservation manager at TWD Candice Rupprecht.

Rupprecht explains the beneficial uses of harvesting stormwater include growing vegetation, improving appearance with greenery, providing comfort with shady trees and conserving water.

“This program has the ability to help conserve water,” said Rupprecht. “If we can water these trees and shrubs from stormwater then it’s less water that we have to use from our system, which we consider conservation.”

In addition to conservation, harvesting stormwater can also help combat pollution and erosion. Rupprecht explained, “if you can capture that water as close to the source of where it originates from as possible, then you can minimize pollution and minimize erosion.”

“As an environmental organization, we work to turn simple acts into regional change,” said TCB executive director Tom Ellis. “We know that we need to conserve water, and we know that we want a green and shaded community.”

Ellis explained that stormwater is often seen as a nuisance and a liability, but harvesting the stormwater can turn it into an asset and use it to grow trees. This will essentially lead to a healthier community because trees clean the air and greenery invites people to engage in outdoor activities.  

TCB works with communities within Tucson’s city wards to identify their needs in terms of stormwater harvesting. The needs of each area decide how the funds are allocated.

The Neighborhood Scale Stormwater Harvesting Program’s fund is $350,000, and each of Tucson’s six wards can be awarded up to $45,000. Rupprecht said, “That money is distributed through a grant process that is administered by our partner, Tucson Clean & Beautiful.”

The program is entering its second year of funding as TWD launched the program with TCB in the beginning of June 2017.

“If we can over time have streets collecting water and growing trees, in the long run we can make a real difference,” said Ellis.

Sierra Ciaramella

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