Life cycle and hydrologic modeling of rainwater harvesting in urban neighborhoods: Implications of urban form and water demand patterns in the US and Spain

Anna Petit-Boix, Jay Devkota, Robert Phillips, María Violeta Vargas-Parra, Alejandro Josa, Xavier Gabarrell, Joan Rieradevall, Defne Apul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Water management plays a major role in any city, but applying alternative strategies might be more or less feasible depending on the urban form and water demand. This paper aims to compare the environmental performance of implementing rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems in American and European cities. To do so, two neighborhoods with a water-stressed Mediterranean climate were selected in contrasting cities, i.e., Calafell (Catalonia, Spain) and Ukiah (California, US). Calafell is a high-density, tourist city, whereas Ukiah is a typical sprawled area. We studied the life cycle impacts of RWH in urban contexts by using runoff modeling before (i.e. business as usual) and after the implementation of this system. In general, cisterns were able to supply > 75% of the rainwater demand for laundry and toilet flushing. The exception were multi-story buildings with roofs smaller than 200 m 2 , where the catchment area was insufficient to meet demand. The implementation of RWH was environmentally beneficial with respect to the business-as-usual scenario, especially because of reduced runoff treatment needs. Along with soil features, roof area and water demand were major parameters that affected this reduction. RWH systems are more attractive in Calafell, which had 60% lower impacts than in Ukiah. Therefore, high-density areas can potentially benefit more from RWH than sprawled cities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-443
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume621
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Circular economy
  • Cities
  • Hydrology
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Rainwater harvesting

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