Civano Know-How: Water Conservation in the Desert

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Civano, an 818-acre, mixed-used community in arid Tucson, Ariz., is living up to its initial billing as one of the most resource-efficient housing developments ever built.

April 01, 2002

Civano’s Water-Conservation Practices

Water reclamation

Domestic waste water is reused after being disinfected to ensure public health and environmental quality.

Water harvesting

Rainwater is gathered in cisterns for irrigation storage by channeling runoff toward designated collection areas.

Xeriscaping

This form of landscaping eliminates grass lawns in favor of local plants that require little water to survive.

Permaculture

This method of land shaping uses swales and ditches to direct water to collection points. This enables a designer to ensure there is enough extra water to grow plants that otherwise might require irrigation.

Civano, an 818-acre, mixed-used community in arid Tucson, Ariz., is living up to its initial billing as one of the most resource-efficient housing developments ever built.

A recent independent study of water use there concluded that its residents use about 65% less water per home than other master-planned communities in the area.

“Residents can save potable water, our most valuable resource in this region, by using reclaimed and harvested water for landscaping,” says Lee Rayburn, managing partner for Civano’s developer, CDC Partners, which commissioned the study. “The results show an overall 50% reduction of water use and 65% reduction of potable water use per home.”

Al Nichols Engineering Inc., the firm that studied Civano’s water use, says the water savings were achieved through several conservation practices, including rainwater harvesting and using landscaping that requires less water.

The study averaged Civano’s water use over a 12-month period and compared it with a one-month total from a group of similarly sized local homes.

A requirement for all Civano homes is two sets of water lines, one for potable water and one for reclaimed water. In addition, Civano homeowners are given an option to get the most out of the small amount of rain that does fall.

“Water harvesting is relatively cost-free,” Rayburn says, “and is overlooked [by developers] in the Southwest.”

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