Cost-efficiency of rainwater harvesting strategies in dense Mediterranean neighbourhoods

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Rainwater harvesting (RWH) presents many benefits for urban sustainability and it is emerging as a key strategy in order to cope with water scarcity in cities. However, there is still a lack of knowledge regarding the most adequate scale in financial terms for RWH infrastructures particularly in dense areas. The aim of this research is to answer this question by analysing the cost-efficiency of several RWH strategies in urban environments. The research is based on a case study consisting of a neighbourhood of dense social housing (600 inhabitants/ha) with multi-storey buildings. The neighbourhood is located in the city of Granollers (Spain), which has a Mediterranean climate (average rainfall 650 mm/year). Four strategies are defined according to the spatial scale of implementation and the moment of RWH infrastructure construction (building/neighbourhood scale and retrofit action vs. new construction). Two scenarios of water prices have been considered (current water prices and future increased water prices under the EU Water Framework Directive). In order to evaluate the cost-efficiency of these strategies, the necessary rainwater conveyance, storage and distribution systems have been designed and assessed in economic terms through the Net Present Value within a Life Cycle Costing approach. The pipe water price that makes RWH cost-efficient for each strategy has been obtained, ranging from 1.86 to 6.42/m3. The results indicate that RWH strategies in dense urban areas under Mediterranean conditions appear to be economically advantageous only if carried out at the appropriate scale in order to enable economies of scale, and considering the expected evolution of water prices. However, not all strategies are considered cost-efficient. Thus, it is necessary to choose the appropriate scale for rainwater infrastructures in order to make them economically feasible. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-694
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011


  • Ecocities
  • Life Cycle Cost
  • Net Present Value
  • Rainwater infrastructures
  • Urban retrofit


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