Phoenix developer Austin Trautman and architect Matt Salenger want to build houses that improve surrounding neighborhoods well beyond the individual lots. As residents of a large sprawling city in a desert, reclaiming and putting to good use every drop of rain quickly became their No. 1 goal.
One concept they discovered is that of net zero water, promoted by the International Living Future Institute. The idea involves capturing rainwater not just from your own site, but from the street as well. That excess runoff usually picks up oil and other pollutants then ends up in streams or sewers.
Something as simple as curb cutouts and subtle grading in the landscape directs all that precious precipitation into rain gardens, bioswales, or cisterns. From there, the water flows through a series of native plantings that filter and clean the water for household use. Truatman found systems that even purify rainwater enough to be used for drinking and showering.
“In a place like Arizona with monsoons and an inch-per-hour rains,” Trautman says, “our design challenge is how much water to let in and how to use it.” A linear rain garden along the curb is one easy option that gives the water a place to hang out while the plants filter it and allow it to absorb slowly into the ground table. Plus, the greenery makes a nice adornment for the streetscape.
Water-Wise Landscaping Creates a Modern Desert Oasis