Iylea from Desert Living, Inc. showed us around her back yard experiemental space.

City of Tucson Rainwater Harvesting Rebate

We had a drop in meeting with Iylea from Desert Living, Inc. to chat about how to make the Tucson rainwater harvesting rebates clear and accessible. We built out a sample project that would apply to almost every home in the neighborhood with the least out of pocket cost.

Our Tucson City Rainwater Harvesting Rebate covers both active and passive rainwater management.

Passive earthworks include directing and retaining water in your landscape using site appropriate practices such as basins, berms, terraces, swales, infiltration trenches, and curb cuts. The City rebate program will cover 50% of the cost of eligible materials and labor up to $500.

Active management includes rainwater storage tanks (cisterns) with gravity-based supply and overflow directed to passive rain garden. Rebate covers cost of system based on gallon per capacity of tank up to $2,000. $0.25 per gallon capacity of 50-799 gallon rain tank and $1.00 per gallon capacity of 800 gallon and larger rain tank.

Iylea shows into her aquaponics greenhouse. She uses her yard as an urban labratory in sustainable practices of landscape and agriculture.

Stripping down rain collection to the most simple principles of active and passive rain collection, we talked about what would be the most fundamental ways to get the most use out of the rebate system. Our sample project includes a 1500 gallon tank with all the required pipes and fittings to get it from a scupper or existing gutter downspout into a cistern that could be used with a regular spigot and hose, plus a passive basin in the right-of-way between the sidewalk and the street with a curb cut to supply street runoff to the basin. We had Iylea from Desert Living, Inc. provide an estimate so that we could have a better understanding of how the rebate works and what to expect for a general out of pocket cost. First, let’s talk about what these systems mean:

Active rainwater harvesting: With 1500 gallons of capacity connected to a spigot, you can water your landscape and food producing garden ether fully or supplementally, depending on the water demands of your landscape. Again, this could give you enough water to support an ecosystem of native plants that provides habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and YOU. (See our visit to the Audubon Society for a conversation about habitats.)

One of the water tanks on their property.

Passive rainwater harvesting: By creating a curb cut and basin along the right-of-way, this has the potential of benefiting you as a home owner and the neighborhood as a whole. The water from the street is enough to sustain native trees, shrubs, and grasses. By having a fully vegetated right-of-way you will have privacy, shade, and a habitat to bring birds, butterflies, and wildlife back into Feldmans. Having shade along our sidewalks will make walking and cycling more enjoyable year round as well as provide shade for your yard and home which will help cut down energy costs in the summer. Without collecting the water, we are leaving it to flood our streets on it’s way to the Santa Cruz River, taking heavy metals, oils, trash, and micro-plastics from tires. Streetside basins are considered green infrastructure and can serve the purpose of filtering pollutants out of stormwater if they are designed and maintained properly.

Desert Living, Inc. provided the following as a hypothetical estimate for the installation of a 1500 gallon tank directly below an existing gutter downspout (if you need gutters, expect to pay $9-10/linear foot for seamless gutter installation):

  • $2030 with $1500 rebate ($1 for every gallon) makes a total out-of-pocket cost of $530.

  • This includes all the planning, materials, and installation; creating a rebate plan, project management, sourcing materials, water tank and all plumbing connections from a gutter downspout and overflow to the landscape. Something to consider is that Desert Living has created a very low markup on their materials to make this as accessible as possible. So based on our calls, the installed tank is approximately what all the components alone would cost for an individual to purchase them retail; they are essentially passing their wholesale rates onto their customers.

Desert Living, Inc. provided the following as a hypothetical estimate for a curb cut and streetside basin measuring 6’x10’x1':

  • $1815 with $500 rebate (the city will match resident spending on eligible materials and labor up to $500) makes a total out-of-pocket cost of $1315.

  • This includes: Permit plan, permit, project management, sourcing materials, curb cut, digging the basins, placing rock and mulch, plants (1 tree, 6 shrubs/grasses, seed mix), and planting.

The homeowner could do much of the installation labor themselves (excavation, rock placement, planting, mulching), saving up to $770. This would bring the out-of-pocket cost down to about $545.

With both projects installed entirely by Desert Living, Inc. you could have a whole system for approximately $3845, with a rebate of $2000 taking your total out-of-pocket to $1845. With a little DIY elbow grease, you can take that cost down to $1075. This one-time investment gets you a continual source of rainwater to support the water demands of your landscape and contributes to the effort to turn our neighborhood into a refuge that has an abundance of shade, food, color, and wildlife.

To get started, call or email Desert Living, Inc. for a complimentary consultation. 520-834-6932 desertlivingtucson@gmail.com