The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded two University of Arizona students and their professor a second-place award for a proposal to turn a campus parking lot into a green space by harvesting rainwater.
Micaela Machado and Rayka Robrecht are landscape architecture graduate students. Their professor Ron Stoltz helped them enter the EPA's first "Campus RainWorks Challenge."
"It's really important to understand the concept of slowing the water down," Machado said of a key part of their proposal, which is to better utilize the rainwater we get in Southern Arizona.
The students propose transforming a campus parking lot into a green space. It would become the second largest green space after the UA Mall, but the greenery would be maintained by harvesting storm water and using drippings from air conditioning units on campus.
"If you don't really understand it, it seems boring but when you understand that we're creating a cooler Tucson, saving water it is really major," Machado said.
Their analysis shows they could harvest two million gallons of water per year by harvesting storm water and catching the drippings from air conditioning units.
"That's so much water," Robrecht said. "We capture all that and you can water an entire area that's right now a parking lot with it without using any new water. It's just amazing. It really is."
The project would be an extension of the existing Sonoran Landscape Garden, which already uses harvested rainwater to maintain greenery and keep everything cool.
The concept could help control heat in the city.
"If we can provide more shade and more ability for us to keep the city from heating up during the day, we will have cooler nights," Stoltz said.
While the project is just a proposal, the university plans to implement it, though there is no set time frame. A prize of $8,000 will go toward creating a green roof on top of the architecture building.